Raising Responsible Children

Would you like your children to put their backpacks away and unpack their lunch boxes at the end of the day without you asking? How about having them put their toys away when they are done without even thinking twice about it? Wouldn’t it just make your heart explode if they handed you paper work they received from school and told you when it needs to be returned? You have probably pleaded with your children to be more responsible at one time or another. But it is important to stop and reflect on how children are being taught the habit of responsibility. It is equally important that children receive plenty of opportunities to practice being responsible at home. Much has been written in recent years about overindulging children. Overindulgence leads children to inherit traits that are the opposite of what it takes to be responsible. Overindulged children may not tolerate frustration well, have a hard time waiting for something they want or expect things to be done for them that they could do for themselves.

According to Jean Illsley Clarke in her book How Much is Enough?, there are three ways parents overindulge children; giving too much, doing too much, and not expecting enough. Many times, these actions are out of misplaced love or sometimes even pure exhaustion. Giving too much might look like making sure a child has the latest toys/video games without waiting for a special occasion. Doing too much means doing things for children that they are able to do or ALMOST able to do for themselves. Children yearn to be recognized for what they are capable of and one way to do this is to make sure they are a contributing member of the family. This holds true for children as young as 2 or 3 years old. Small acts of responsibility when they are young have big pay outs when they are older. One example of this is a three-year old who is responsible for carrying her dishes to the sink (have a small stepping stool available). Another might be a seven- year old who sets the table. When we ask children to be independent and responsible, we must be willing to let them do it imperfectly for this is the only way they will learn. Not expecting enough from children can have negative consequences in the future. It is important to set expectations and then hold children accountable for those expectations. Setting limits and saying no to your child is just as important as comforting them when they are sad and celebrating with them when they are happy. By setting limits, you are showing your child that you care about them and want them to be safe as they explore the world around them. As a parent who sets limits, you become an authority on whom your child can always rely.

Every day in the Montessori classroom, responsibility is something that the child hears about and gets to practice. From setting the table for lunch in Children’s House to recording their work in the elementary to mentoring in the adolescence, Montessori children practice these habits daily. With teachers and parents working together, we can assist the child in becoming an adult who has a deep sense of personal responsibility as well as a responsibility toward their larger community. For a list of age appropriate jobs for children, follow the link below:

https://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/age-appropriate-chores-for-children-and-why-theyre-not-doing-them/?_r=1

-Sara Vondrachek, PEN Newsletter, March 2017

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