Age-Appropriate Ways to Build Responsibility

Ultimately, health and independence are what any parent wants for a child. A responsible child will grow into a respectful teenager and an independent adult. Self-sufficiency builds self-confidence at any age. This blossoming is never more evident as an infant delights in learning to sit, roll, crawl, stand, and walk. It may seem like a far leap from a food-flinging toddler to a responsible young adult, but small steps toward obligation and accountability can be taken with children as young as two.

Choosing a system

There are countless ways to organize a chore chart. For instance, Neatlings has a system where kids complete responsibilities in exchange for a set amount of screen time or tickets that can be redeemed in “the family store” for money, a treat, or a special play date.

Some parents use a printed chore chart with stickers to mark completion. If all chores are completed for the week, the agreed-upon allowance is given. A jar of Popsicle sticks holds a number of “extra” chores that can be completed for additional earnings. shows a number of DIY chore charts to employ. The magnetic sticky paper chore chart offers a visual and gratifying way for young children to mark completion of tasks. All the tabs are left open and they simply close the flap to read, “Done!” For chores that must be completed in a set order, the “Track Your Chores” Racetrack is genius! Older kids might like the clothespin / clipboard or magnetic systems, or simple, visual “Do It / Did It” boxes may work best. The method of organization that makes the most sense all boils down to personal preference.

Building responsibility in toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners

Giving toddlers chores helps them figure out the routine that will help them make it out the door on time on their way to school and wind down for bed at a decent hour. It’s more about building confidence, gaining compliance, and making the point that chores are something one does to contribute to the family. At this age, children often need prompting and help, but they are full of surprises when the bar is set high!

Reasonable chores for toddlers include:

  • Getting dressed
  • Brushing teeth
  • Setting the table
  • Making the bed
  • Feeding a pet
  • Helping cook a meal
  • Tidying up the bookshelf
  • Watering plants and flowers
  • Helping put groceries away
  • Mopping up spills and light dusting
  • Picking out pajamas and clothes to wear
  • Helping to wash and dry loads of laundry
  • Turning off the lights when leaving a room or the house
  • Putting clothes in the dirty laundry basket and hanging up a towel after bath
  • Carrying dirty dishes to the sink or putting utensils in the dishwasher
  • Picking up toys when finished playing, placing them into a bin, toy box, or easy access storage

Building responsibility in kids ages 6-12

By this time, children begin to understand the concept of “earning money” and all the wonderful luxuries having money can afford. They may be on their parents’ case about wanting a certain toy, vacation, or special activity – which is the perfect time to start teaching them about money and encouraging them to be hardworking self-starters. It is also important to introduce elementary school age children to “adult-like” behaviors like writing out “Get Well” cards, thanking others, volunteering, donating old toys, and using polite language in social situations.

  • Washing windows and mirrors with diluted vinegar
  • Dusting off furniture in the main rooms of the house
  • Wiping down the dinner table after eating
  • Sorting laundry, folding, and putting away clean clothes
  • Loading the dishwasher independently
  • Walking the dog and cleaning out litter boxes
  • Taking out the trash and recycling
  • Vacuuming a room
  • Organizing the closet
  • Fetching the mail
  • Cooking a meal
  • Packing lunches
  • Washing/cleaning out the car

Building responsibility in teenagers

Teenagers are notoriously stereotyped as “lazy” and “self-absorbed,” but encouraging them to continue on with a tradition of responsibility is especially important in these years characterized by fierce independence. With driving on the horizon and more social events on the calendar, teens may find this avenue to earn and save money to be particularly helpful. Parents should take extracurricular and homework demands into consideration when scheduling chores to be sure teens are not overwhelmed.

  • Testing smoke alarms four times a year
  • Painting his or her bedroom
  • Planting his or her own garden
  • Creating party invitations and decorations
  • Making dinner once a month
  • Washing his or her own laundry
  • Cleaning out the fridge
  • Organizing the closets
  • Babysitting younger children
  • Donating some allowance proceeds to charity
  • Sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping floors
  • Raking leaves, shoveling snow, and mowing the lawn
  • Sewing buttons
  • Cleaning toilets and tubs
  • Replacing light bulbs

What To Expect

Despite the best of intentions, the occasional chore battle or nagging reminder is perhaps inevitable. The chief “jobs” of childhood involve observing limits, pushing limits, and acquiring skills working toward greater self-sufficiency. Setting the foundation early with expectations and firm-but-flexible rules is responsible parenting. The bright light at the end of the tunnel is raising a child that is responsible, rather than entitled. So, hang in there – the rewards are worth it!

By Jenn Fusion for Shine

Jenn Fusion is a Buffalo, NY based wordsmith with more than a decade of experience researching, writing, and editing informative and insightful articles for business clients. Her work has been featured online and in print editions of USA Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Houston Chronicle, as well as niche publications for vice presidents, celebrities, music, and beer. You may have seen on Huffington Post Live TV or heard her on Minnesota Public Radio. Best of all, she’s the mother of busybody toddlers Josephine and Henri.

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