How can we raise our kids to be responsible, joyful and proactive adults?
One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever heard on parenting is that we are raising children to be adults… we are not raising children to grow up to become children.
I can’t even remember who said it, but boy does that thought hit home!
To me, parenting is like gardening… you start with an adorable, small seed, but you don’t want that seed to stay little forever. You want it to grow deep roots, reach high to the sky, flourish and become bountiful and productive.
Likewise, we want our children to grow deep roots, stretch and grow beyond their comfort zones, and become an adult that creates a beautiful and productive life.
So how do we do that? I believe it starts by teaching kids personal responsibility.
Today I’d love to share with you five tips on raising responsible kids. These are both things I’ve learned and practiced, and ideas I’ve seen my others implement with their children, many of whom are now responsible young adults.
Teach Your Kids Personal Responsibility When They Are Very Young
From the moment your child can walk, move, grab things…. its time to start teaching them responsibility!
You can easily do this by making fun games with your toddler when its time to clean up. In a happy voice say, oh its clean up time! Then sing a song and help them toss their toys in the toy bin.
Use your words to empower your little one by saying, what a big helper you are! You are so good at cleaning up after yourself!
As soon as your baby can walk, have them take their diaper to the trash. It sounds crazy, but believe me it works! Toddlers love to help, and they love praise.
Again, make it a game. Good job, baby look at how big and smart you are!
A child’s brain is extremely malleable in the first few years. So, put good things in it! Give them the idea that they are capable from a young age, and encourage them with your happy words.
Responsible Kids Experience Natural Consequences
To the extent that is safe and reasonable, let your child experience natural consequences. If your kiddo doesn’t want to wear their coat to the park, for example, they may be cold when they play!
If they don’t want to eat breakfast and run off to play, they may be hungry before snack time.
And if they are rude to their sibling, they may not have a playmate in the afternoon!
Gently navigate through these life issues with your child. You can help them realize that they are responsible for their own life decisions, and these decisions have consequences.
Talk them through their decisions and help them become a critical thinker.
Involve Your Child in Real Life
The next time you are planning your grocery shopping, slow down just a bit and involve your child.
Let them help plan the menu, research the ingredients, shop for the food and even help make the transaction.
My kids LOVE this, and it gives them a taste of what its like to be an adult. My 7 year old loves to pay the cashier and get her receipt with money she’s earned from chores.
Through this simple project of grocery shopping you’ve boosted your child’s self confidence and shown them that they are a responsible kid who helps provide for the family by getting the hard work of shopping done.
There are so many activities you can do this with: cleaning the car, cooking dinner, making a care package for a sick relative, shopping for needed clothes, picking out paint colors for the house, and more.
Involve them in these little mundane things of adult life. To a child, they are interesting, new and exciting. And when your sweet child becomes an adult, they will have so many real life skills in their tool belt.
Have Your Child Pick Up Their Own Messes
There is not one human on the planet who hasn’t created a huge ole mess outta something. Plates break. Cups spill. Muddy feet make floors messy.
So, use these opportunities to teach your child to be personally responsible.
But do it gently.
Try not to get frustrated when little ones make messes… we all do it. Instead just say, whoops looks like your cup spilled, but you can clean it up. If you need a little help, I’m here.
Remind them that if they track mud in the house, they’ll have to vacuum it up.
You are teaching them both resiliency (life is sometimes hard and messy) and responsibility (I am capable and can clean up any mess I create).
You may have to help them a little, and that’s ok!
If you choose your words carefully, you can also teach them grace in these moments and even share the Gospel with them.
“We all mess up, and that’s okay. The only person who is perfect was Jesus, and he died on the cross for all of our sins. I am so thankful he loves us!”
Make Sure You Are Being a Responsible Parent
My last tip is a hard one… you have to make sure you are being a responsible parent, if you want to raise responsible kids!
Of course you pay the bills and keep the electricity running.
But, are you taking responsibility for teaching and training your own children?
This can be a hard truth to swallow and no parent is perfect. (Believe me, I am far from it!). But are we taking responsibility for the heavy lifting of raising our children… or have we lapsed into habits of laziness?
Instead of investing in our kids, we entertain them with too much screen time. Instead of leaning in when it’s hard, we try to escape. Instead of working on our own anger issues, we yell at our kids.
Believe me, I have been there. We all fail.
But if we want to raise responsible kids, we have to take a long look in the mirror and be honest with how we are parenting.
And then, just like we are teaching our kids, we can take responsibility, grow and improve.
Raising Responsible Kids Takes Wisdom
I will leave you with these timely and wise words from the Good Book, who have said it better than I ever could:
“Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Seek wisdom and be diligent, and I know both you and your children will grow in responsibility and be blessed!