How to Teach Young Kids Responsibility

When you start to teach young kids responsibility, you may take on more work helping them learn but will help them become better adults by starting early.

Photo by @reynarobyn, featuring Blush Rose Collection

Responsibility starts young, and it doesn’t happen on its own. Parents should start teaching young kids responsibility as early as possible to build valuable traits that will last them into adulthood. Ultimately, it’s never too early for children to begin tackling chores and helping parents with different projects in order to learn discipline. As long as you and your partner are willing to work at it, you’ll be able to teach your kids responsibility in a way that feels natural and nurturing. 

According to one American study, although 82 percent of those surveyed reported having chores as a kid, only 56 percent said they required their kids to do chores. It may seem tough when kids complain about a task, but you can bet they’ll thank you in 20 years. I know I do – I feel like a responsible adult and I owe it all to my parents for teaching me good behaviors at a young age.

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Tips to Help Teach Young Kids Responsibility

I’m sure there are a million way to encourage kids to learn good behaviors, but these simple tips will make it easy for you to teach young kids responsibility as soon as possible:

1. Invite Kids to Help – As any parent of a toddler knows, “helping” doesn’t really feel like helping. They might jumble every towel into a ball while you neatly fold it, but letting them help is important to building their responsibility. In order to teach young kids responsibility, you should invite them to help you with tasks like laundry, sweeping, washing the car or pulling weeds even when their help may make the task take longer. It’s the first step to helping them learn.

2. Don’t Complain – How many times do you complain about cleaning the kitchen while your kids are listening? I know, I know adults hate chores too. Unfortunately, it’s up to adults to set a good example. As they get older, kids begin to notice your complaints about chores and adapt them too. No one likes chores! Nonetheless, teaching your kids responsible behaviors means putting on a happy face to let them know that some things need to be done no matter what (at least until the kids are old enough to mow the lawn).

3. Model Responsible Behaviors – Talk about good behaviors as you do them together. You can teach young kids responsibility by modeling behaviors with explanations, like “now we clean up the markers” or “now we hang up our towel.” By using the collective “we” term consistently, parents can make it a group activity until kids eventually learn to complete behaviors without being told.

4. Find Repetition – Like anything, kids will learn responsibility through repetition. If you say “time for us to feed the dog” every day, kids eventually learn to do these behaviors on their own. Teaching responsibility is like teaching any other task. Over time, it starts to feel natural and you know that it’s a normal activity you’re supposed to do.

5. Praise Good Work – To kids, chores are fun! Helping you sweep the floor doesn’t feel like work to them, so telling them that they’re doing a good job solidifies their good acts. Similarly, telling them you’re proud of them for finishing something on their own (maybe without even being told) will make them want to do it again. Even adults understand that being told “thank you” invokes a good feeling. The same goes for your kids! It’s not just about manners.

6. Don’t Criticize – You can’t expect young children to do a task very well on their own. If they set the table, fold the laundry or make their bed and the result is messy, don’t criticize it. Simply thank them and remember that there’s only so much you can expect from a 6-year-old. 

7. Teach Consequences Over Rewards – In order to teach young kids responsibility, you also have to teach them consequences. While they’re young, those consequences will be minor. As they grow into teenagers, you may need to be stricter. Teach kids that if they don’t complete a chore, they either get something taken away or they can’t have the “reward” they might be used to. Instead of offering a cookie for obeying a request, remind them that they can’t watch TV until they finish their chores. Rewards will not teach kids nearly as successfully as consequences will.

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What’s the Difference Between Obedience and Responsibility?

Think back to the first chore your parents ever gave you. Despite not liking it, you did it. After a few times, you knew that chore was YOUR responsibility and did it because you knew it needed to be done.

You want to teach young kids responsibility, not simply obedience. If they only do things when asked, they don’t actually learn responsibility that will help them as adults. Starting early and encouraging repetitive tasks will help them learn the behavior instead of being told what to do. That said, obedience is obviously appreciated too! 

How to do you or did you teach your kids responsibility?

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