My child has run out of white athletic socks. Not because he doesn’t have them, but because he has worn all of them over the past week. They are sitting in a pile on the floor of the bathroom that he uses. Now, I know where the socks are, and I could easily grab them, bring them to the washer and wash them — I mean, I literally walk past that bathroom multiple times per day. But, I don’t…instead I remind my child that if he needs clothes washed, he should bring them to the washer (while secretly screaming in my head ”how many times do I have to remind him?”).
Sound familiar? If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had a similar experience. And that experience is called teaching your kids life skills. It’s fun, isn’t it? It’s like a combo lesson of life skills and a refresher in patience, for yourself, all at the same time. And, it is hard. On the one-hand, you want to teach your kids life skills. But on the other, you’d really like to stop looking at a pile of socks!
Fear not, parents; you are doing the right thing. You are developing skills in your children that will help them function when they go out into the real world. You are doing your job as a parent to guide them and coach them. And, since we could all use a little help every once in a while, we thought we would take the next few months to offer tips that may help you in your quest to raise good humans. And, we thought we’d start with tips to help instill responsibility (totally unrelated to the current sock issue happening in my home).
Tips For Raising Responsible Children
- Set the expectation that your child(ren) should clean up their own messes. This could be cleaning up their plate after dinner, cleaning up the milk they spilled, or bringing their laundry to the washer. Let children know that you expect them to take care of the situation.
- Ask your child to do the thinking around a task or activity. For example, if your child needs to get things packed up for school, ask what they should be doing to get ready for school vs. telling them to pack their lunch, computer, folders, etc.
- Establish routines and schedules. Coming home from school means you unpack your lunch bag, put your backpack away and do your homework. It doesn’t mean leaving everything in your bag and hoping someone will take care of everything for you.
- Let them do the task their way. ven if that means they put a dish in the dishwasher in the wrong spot! (we all know they is a right way to load the dishwasher.) And while this may cause you to cringe (try to hide it), give your children the freedom to complete a task or activity how they would like to, and on their own timeframe.
- Try to avoid coming to their rescue if they are in a difficult situation. This is a tough one, but when kids can work through challenging situations and sometimes fail a bit, they learn quicker and will apply that lesson to future activities. Obviously, if they are in a life-threatening situation or could get hurt, you should help them!
- Model responsibility as well. Show them what it means to be responsible through your actions. For example, clean up after yourself at dinner as well, or make sure you put your work-related items away after work, as you would like them to do with their school things.
- Give your child the opportunity to contribute to a common household goal. If a household goal is a relatively tidy home, make sure the entire family knows this and is encouraged to contribute to that goal in their own way. A tidy home may mean different things to different family members.
And, a bonus tip…but this one is for the parents. Children learn at varying paces, and although it may seem like you’re ongoing teaching isn’t working, it really is. Your kids are listening and learning. And, one day, when you walk past that bathroom and see that the pile of socks has been moved to the washer, give yourself a little high five. And then ready yourself because the pile may start all over again tomorrow (enjoy the little wins).
Next month we’ll dig into more life skills and offer tips to help parents teach them and survive teaching them. And, if you’ve got a successful life skill win, email us — we’d love to include it in an upcoming blog.