6 Ways to Instill Responsibility in Your Child This School Year
As the Labor Day weekend starts to simmer out, it’s likely that you and your family are truly getting into the swing of the school year once again: missing homework deadlines, fumbling over one another in the morning, and scurrying across town to grab missing football gear. Whether your firstborn clings to your hand while you walk her into kindergarten or your youngest son is heading into his first year of middle school, chances are that the whole family would benefit from promoting a more responsible school year. This can be the year that your child can learn to juggle all of her activities. Check out my six ideas below to get started.
1 - Work together to develop clear and concrete goalsOne of the easiest ways to set your child up for success is to keep every goal two things: simple and tangible. When you sit down with your child to tackle the goal-setting process, look out for words that are abstract or vague and determine what it is you two really mean to say. Aim to include the who, what, when, where, why, and how with every step. For instance, if she’s been begging to join a soccer league, determine how long she’ll stick with the sport. These little details are crucial to establishing goals she’ll stick with; without them, her emotions will - just as ours do - set her heart on another activity before seeing this one through. During this process, consider your family values and lay out a plan that is in accordance with those ideals. Think about what your family deems as responsibility, success, and good habits. There are several areas you may want to consider, like:
- School. This may include completing homework on time, getting good grades on projects, or getting along with classmates.
- Home. This could include responsibilities like age-appropriate chores, hygiene, or time management.
- Extracurricular activities. Anything from organized sports to casual hobbies may need some goal-setting.
- Money. This may mean things like learning to save money, considering the idea of donating, or understanding basic budgeting principles.
2 - Help your child understand why these goals are importantRemember all the times your parents nagged you to do something without giving the “why” behind it? It’s something kids remember. No matter how many times you tell your child to get into the habit of something, his limited perspective just won’t see it as very important. Let your child benefit from your experience. You can utilize tools like personal stories, examples, and illustrations - all while engaging him in conversation and hearing from him what he thinks is important and why. When you two work together, he’ll more clearly understand why it’s so important to do well in school. With both of you on the same page, you lay a great foundation for working with one another - rather than against one another - to accomplish his goals. Watch your mannerisms as you accomplish this step. Do you suddenly find yourself lecturing him or shutting down his ideas? While you are the authority and have the experience he simply doesn’t, you want to keep a positive attitude and let him know that he is playing a huge part in the process.
3 - Eliminate logistical issuesIt can be all too easy to overlook the importance of your home’s environment. Unfortunately, it can be one of the biggest pitfalls for your child’s success if it isn’t handled. Think about what your home is like whenever your child sets out to accomplish her goals. If it’s a space that tends to get cluttered, chaotic, and noisy, it isn’t realistic to expect your daughter to generate “A”-quality school assignments. You may also want to consider if home is where your family usually is. When you’re juggling multiple kids with different interests and schedules, getting into a routine at home can be all the more difficult. Think about what you can do to make sure your child isn’t fighting an uphill battle. If she’s trying to save money, seek out a place for her to keep it and a way for her to keep track of it. If she’s trying to get better at completing her chores, make sure she knows exactly where everything is supposed to go and where she can access any supplies she’ll need. Ruth from Living Well, Spending Less gives some great advice on how to declutter the entire house, and StorageFront provides a way to search for affordable storage units nearby.
4 - Play an active (and appropriate) part in the experienceAs a parent, you fulfill a crucial need in the life of your child that no one else can replace. Sure - others may step in temporarily as teachers, friends, or authority figures, but you put on all of these hats (and more) everyday. It’s no surprise, then, that you may find times when you struggle to identify what it is your child needs from you in that situation. For instance, when your son fails to follow through on a goal you two have agreed upon, it may be ever so tempting to ease the blow that will come with natural consequences. This will be the appropriate response in some cases. Sometimes, however, the hardest part of being a parent is letting your child deal with the implications of his actions. How can you know the difference? Collaborate with your significant other, your friends, or even online resources to develop a strategy for dealing with all the things coming your child’s way. Particularly if a significant other is involved, you’ll want to develop a consistent method, lest your child learn which one of you is The Strict Parent and which one is The Fun Parent. Here are some good ground rules to consider when raising a child to become more responsible:
- Help your child plan ahead. He needs your help to understand how to best manage his time.
- Choose tough love sometimes. There are times when a firm stance helps your child make better decisions in the future.
- Talk him through tough situations. More than anything, most kids just need the support of their parents. Let him know you’re always there through hard times.
- Be consistent. While your reaction to isolated incidents may vary, let your child look up to you as a wise and mature role model through your ability to be consistent.
- Find your patience. Your child is going to make mistakes. Becoming more responsible will take time and plenty of errors. Remember that we all take time to change our behaviors.