Discipline: Teaching Children Responsibility

As parents, our job is to instruct and teach our children.  God is our example as He teaches and instructs us as His children.

Psalm 32:8 reveals the heart of God.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. 

Through the Holy Spirit,  God teaches us and shows us the ways that are best for us. He loves us and is always watching out for us.  This is to be our heart, too, as parents. We are the instructors for our children. We are to be loving counselors, who guide our children on the right paths.

List some of the dangers your child faces in today’s society.

In the 1940’s, researchers found that in spite of one’s income, level of education, intelligence, or cultural group, the happiest and most successful people were those who had learned the importance of responsibility in childhood. Children who are given responsibility at an early age have a higher level of responsibility in adulthood.

There are certain ages in a child’s life that provide the most teachable years for the development of a sense of responsibility.  The chart below provides some guidelines.

Developmental Stages of Responsibility

Age

Responsibility

Directed Towards

2 to 6 years

Obedience

  • Responding appropriately  to requests and home rules
  • Performing age appropriate chores and tasks
  • Caring for belongings

Parents

6-8 Years

Morality

  • Understanding how actions affect others
  • Respecting the rights of others
  • Developing appropriate attitudes
  • Recognizing and utilizing strengths and talents

Society and Peers

8-10 Years

Discipline

  • Making appropriate choices and understanding the consequences of those choices
  • Developing character traits (honesty, dependability, etc.)
  • Developing one’s potential

Self

10-12 years and beyond

Service

  • Serving family and community
  • Making commitments and keeping them
  • Contributing talents and abilities to society

Others

© 1997,2004 Practical Parent Education

This chart shows the type of responsibility that is reasonable for a child at a certain age. It also shows to whom a child is responsible.  As an example, starting at age 2 to 6, a child is primarily responsible for obeying his parents. At this age, your child is learning to obey you and the boundaries you’ve set.  He/she is also learning how to take responsibility for simple tasks and to care for his/her belongings.  As your child matures, he is learning to obey you, as well as others in the society, and to take greater responsibility for himself/herself. These stages are dependent on the child’s development and build on each other. In other words, what your child learns at 6 years of age, will lay the foundation for the next age group.

Aside from learning obedience and respect toward you and society, your child is learning to complete chores assigned to him/her.  Below are some suggestions for age-appropriate responsibilities for children at certain ages. These ideas come from Maria Montessori.

Ages 2-3

  • Put toys in toy box
  • Stock books on shelf
  • Place dirty clothes in laundry hamper
  • Throw trash away
  • Carry firewood
  • Fold washcloths
  • Set the table
  • Get diapers and wipes
  • Dust baseboards

Ages 6-7

  • Pick up trash
  • Fold towels
  • Dust floors
  • Match socks
  • Weed garden
  • Rake leaves
  • Peel potatoes
  • Make salad
  • Replace toilet paper roll

Ages 10-11

  • Clean bathrooms
  • Vacuum rugs
  • Clean countertops
  • Clean kitchen
  • Prepare simple meal
  • Mow lawn
  • Bring in mail
  • Do simple mending
  • Sweep out garage

Ages 4-5

  • Feed pets
  • Wipe up spills
  • Put away toys
  • Make the bed
  • Straighten bedroom
  • Water houseplants
  • Sort clean silverware
  • Prepare simple snacks
  • Use hand-held vacuum
  • Clear kitchen table
  • Dry and put away dishes
  • Disinfect doorknobs

Ages 8-9

  • Load dishwasher
  • Change light bulbs
  • Wash laundry
  • Hang/fold clean clothes
  • Dust furniture
  • Put groceries away
  • Scramble eggs
  • Bake cookies
  • Walk dogs
  • Sweep porches
  • Wipe off table

Ages 12 and Up

  • Mop floors
  • Change overhead lights
  • Wash/vacuum car
  • Trim hedges
  • Paint walls
  • Shop for groceries/list
  • Cook complete dinner
  • Bake bread or cake
  • Do simple home repairs
  • Wash windows
  • Iron clothes
  • Watch younger siblings

Demonstrate to your child the correct way to do something, such as making the bed or washing the dishes. As soon as your child learns a skill correctly, that skill becomes his/her responsibility.

Responsibility is learned through experiences that you are willing to give your child.

Allowing your child to ignore the completion of  assigned tasks or showing inappropriate behavior toward you or others,  encourages him/her to be irresponsible.

Make a list some appropriate responsibilities for your child’s age.  An example is done for you.

My child at age 3 can:

Put dirty clothes in the laundry

Set the table with child-safe materials

Your Turn:

My child at age _____can:

As parents, avoid:

  • Accepting excuses from your child
  • Making excuses for your child
  • Rescuing your child from a situation, unless it is dangerous
  • Doing for your child what he can do for himself
  • Giving into manipulation, such as, crying, complaining, yelling, or pouting

Encouraging independence in your child is a slow process that takes many years.  At the beginning of infancy, your child is completely dependent upon you.  Gradually, you provide experiences for your child to become completely independent.

You are the model for responsible behavior.  As you consistently show your child the benefits of hard work and the joy of completing a task,  your child learns the importance of taking responsibility.  You cannot teach your child something that you are not willing to do yourself.

Understand that your child will make mistakes and allow him/her to do something over.  Praise your child for good effort and enjoy this growth process.  These experiences will build your child’s confidence, competence, and good decision-making skills that are the building blocks for good emotional health and successful adult living.

Try Something New

Choose 2 tasks that are appropriate for your child’s age. Demonstate and practice these chores with your child.  Once your child understands how to do the task well, allow these jobs to become your child’s responsibility.

Verses for Encouragement

Be diligent to instruct your child for his/her best interests.

Philippians 2:4

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Be an example to your child in your attitudes and behaviors.  Model what you want him/her to be.  As parents, our model is Christ, Himself.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.  He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Use the Bible as your guide for teaching and instructing your child.

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.