But careful, your child doesn’t need to be your mini-employee. A good way to get started is to encourage children to be responsible for their own possessions at an age-appropriate level.
Help your child understand that she can learn to make the bed she sleeps in. She can learn to carry her dishes to the sink after eating.
Relax, you don’t have to run around disciplining her every time she forgets or messes up. She doesn’t have to be perfect at it and trust me, every child needs gentle reminders.
The key is to start slowly.
At Thrive Occupational Therapy we teach three easy ways to get started:
Keep It Simple
Start with a basic task such as having your kids put their pajamas in the hamper or having them clear up their dishes.. Don’t add new chores until they have mastered the first ones.
Both kids and adults need reminders. For pre-writers, post pictures depicting the chore on their own bulletin boards or the fridge. For writers/readers, you can make a list or have them write it themselves.
If, you prefer to work verbally, focus on one task at a time. Children tend to get overwhelmed when too many tasks are rattled off at once. Break it down for them.
For instance, if your goal is to get your small child to pick their toys off the floor you might want to name one toy at a time.
You might tell them “please put away your puzzle”, and once they’ve completed that task, say “now, don’t forget to put the Legos back where they belong”. An older child might be able to handle more complicated commands such as, “pick up your toys and put them away.”
Age Appropriate Requests
Many parents ask me at what age they should start teaching responsibility. Start as soon as you feel your child will be receptive. Generally, after they begin walking or when they have begun basic speech is a good time to begin.
Although we can ask our kids to start taking responsibility from when they are very young, we must be careful that the way we say it is age appropriate.
At around ten years old, the commands change from being direct to non-direct. For example, instead of saying “Clean the milk from the milk from the table” you would say “If the milk stays on the table, it will spoil.”
Make Your Requests Achievable
Try not to give a directive that you cannot make your child follow through on. Keep your requests and directives reasonable. Commanding your child to go to sleep, swallow, speak, defecate or urinate won’t work because those are not always within your child’s control.
Your language should reflect this. Instead of telling your child to “go to sleep” tell him to ‘go to bed’.
Remember, teaching your child to be responsible is essential, but it doesn’t have to be painful.
This topic is an important one for most families Please feel free to contact me at Miriam@otthrive.com if you have questions or if you just want to share your tips or ideas on how to teach kids responsibility.