Fostering Responsibility in Children: Chores or Contributions?
In many of my workshops and in my clinical practice I have been asked questions about the most effective ways to teach children to be responsible. Frequently, these questions are posed by parents and teachers who are frustrated by children who do not follow through on what is expected. A sample of such questions includes:
"How can I get my son to do his chores? He says I'm always nagging him."
"How can I get my daughter to make her bed?"
"How can I get my daughter to do her homework?"
"How can I get my son to remember to clean his room?"
"How can I motivate my students to complete their assignments?"
In this article I will describe one approach for teaching children to be responsible, an approach that has the added benefit of fostering an attitude of caring and compassion in our children. The ideas in this article began to take shape from research I did a number of years ago when I asked adults to describe one of their fondest memories of school, a memory in which a teacher said or did something that enhanced their self-esteem. I was somewhat surprised at first by the theme that appeared most often since it was not one that I expected. Before reading further, pause for a moment. What do you think was the most common positive memory that I received in my survey? The answer was when a student was asked to contribute in some manner to the school environment. The following are several representative responses:
"As a first grade student I had the responsibility of raising and lowering the coat closet doors because I was one of the taller boys in the class. This made me feel so good because I was so self-conscious about my height."
"In a one-room school, the teacher had me sit and do spelling with the second graders, once I'd shown some ability in this subject."
"My English teacher asked me to tutor a senior who was about to ‘not graduate’ because she was failing English grammar. I was in 10th grade."
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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