Our daughters were quite excited to begin their first summer job yesterday.
Our neighbors are on vacation for ten days and asked the girls to take care of their cat while they’re out of town. At 13 and 11, this is a great chance for them to practice responsibility.
Responsibility is an important character trait in many areas of life. If our children are given a task to do or a duty to fulfill, they need to take charge, learn to act independently, and then be accountable for what they’ve done.
Here are six tips I think can help us as parents as we try to raise responsible children.
1. Teach first. As we give our children a job to do, we need to show them how to do it and then let them practice it with our supervision. Twice in the past week, our girls went to the neighbor’s house and she showed them different things she wanted them to do for the cat.
2. Make expectations clear. Let your child know exactly what is involved in the task she’s been given.
3. Start small. Assign a project that is age-appropriate and only add to it once you know they are capable of handling it.
4. Inspect what you expect. If we give our children a responsibility and they report that it’s done, we should take the time to ensure that it was carried out properly. This may not mean perfection, but that they did it to the best of their ability. For example, if she is responsible for making her bed each morning, I can check to make sure that it’s neat and done as well as she’s able to do it.
5. Don’t nag. If I as a parent am constantly reminding my daughters to complete an assigned task, they’re not learning to be responsible. For example, our daughters have Saturday chores that are to be completed by a certain time. For awhile, I was tempted to remind one of them (who has a tendency to play first and work later) that she was wasting her time instead of doing her chores. However, I had to learn to just be quiet and allow her to learn, through consequences, if necessary, how to manage her time. Which leads us to number 6.
6. Use rewards and consequences as needed. I don’t think we need to reward our children for every single thing they do, but it is nice to recognize a responsible spirit – even if it’s just with words of praise. There may be times when you can reward continued responsibility with a small prize or a family outing. On the other hand, if one of our children continually fails to complete their job, there may need to be a consequence. If our daughters don’t finish their chores by the assigned time, they still have to complete them later in the day and they don’t get paid the money that they would have gotten if they were done on time.
It will be interesting to see how this cat-sitting job plays out over the next week and a half, but I’m confident our girls will learn some more about responsibility as they go!
What other tips do you have for teaching our children responsibility? Did you ever have a summer job that helped you learn this quality?