Homeschool Priorities Part 6 of 6: Teaching Responsibility

Sophie - She has taught both my boys about being gentle and caring for animals.

My last homeschool priority for my children is teaching responsibility. Obviously this is something that will have to be taught over the long-haul, and I’m always looking for ideas on character building.  If anyone has any suggestions in this area, especially for youngsters, I’d love for you to contribute your ideas in the comments section.

I’ve tried different things to instill a sense of responsibility in my five-year-old.  Some of them I continue to do, but there is one that didn’t stick:

I created a sticker board for him, and across the top, I wrote various things that I expected him to do during the day, such as his reading and math lessons, helping to take care of his baby brother, playing, and helping to clean.  If he did that during the day, he’d get a sticker for it.  Some of what I put down as his “responsibilities” were easy for him because I didn’t want to make all of them chores, and I wanted to show him that working is just as important as taking time to play.  We used this sticker board for a while, and he really liked it, but unfortunately, we started to forget about it and eventually I abandoned it altogether.  In addition, I didn’t like the idea of rewarding him with stickers all the time.  It wasn’t a big deal after awhile.  However, I do think it served an important purpose: it got him to realize that I expect certain things from him, and he seems more willing to “step up to the plate” when I ask him to do something.

Here are a few other things I’ve done to (hopefully) instill a sense of responsibility:

  • After I abandoned the sticker board, I created a sheet in which I listed everyone’s responsibilities in house.  I made three columns (and a short one for the two-year-old on the bottom), and I listed every chore that each of us do to “maintain and take care of our home.”  I often tell my son that this house is our only home, and it’s our responsibility to take care of it.  I believe that writing this out and going over it with him has helped him see the “big picture” and begin to understand the roles each of us play in making a home.   (I don’t expect him to remember all this.  It’s a just a beginning.)  So, for example, I wrote:
      • Daddy: Works full-time to make money to pay for the house, food, clothes, etc.  Takes out garbage and takes care of pets, including fish tank.  Makes repairs, mows the grass, takes care of cars, gives five-year-old a shower every night.  Etc. Etc. Etc.
      • Mommy:  Listed all my chores…….Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.!
      • Five-year-old:  Here I listed what I expected of him, including helping to clean, take care of his younger brother, feed the cat, and do what mommy and daddy asks.
      • Two-year-old:  Help clean toys, help take care of his older brother, and do what mommy and daddy asks.
  • I have picked a few small chores for him to do to help me around the house.  I only picked things that I thought he and I could both stick to.  And luckily I picked right because I always make him do these things:
      • Help pick up toys.  If there’s a lot of toys out, he knows that he has to put them back before he can get another box out from the closet.
      • Feed the cat.  We are lucky that we have a cat with will power.  We only have to fill up her bowl every few days.  When I notice that it’s empty, I tell my son to fill it up.
      • Take his used plate/bowl/cup after meal times and put them on the kitchen counter.
      • On cleaning days (Mondays), he knows he has to help do some “big” cleaning, and I usually let him chose what he wants to help with.  (Except for picking up the toys. He has to help with that.)  Right now he likes vacuuming under the sofa cushions.  That’s a big help!
      • After he and his brother help me clean on Monday mornings, he knows that he needs to play and keep his brother occupied while I continue cleaning.  (This doesn’t always go as well as I might hope.) I do reward him for this help on Mondays by having “Monday Movie night.”  (I get this reward too, and I’ll write more about that in another post.)
  • I think the biggest way I teach responsibility is just by talking and making gentle reminders (Daddy does this too):
      • I always explain to my five-year-old that we’re a family, so we help take care of each other.  Since he’s the older brother, he’ll need to help his brother more, but as the 2-year-old gets older, they’ll be able to help each other more and more. Occasionally my two-year-old will give his older brother his morning juice that I set on the counter in the morning, or he’ll go get him a spoon from the silverware drawer.  Whenever he does this, I say, “See, he’s already helping you too!”
      • I don’t hesitate to tell him how much things cost or when we can or cannot afford to buy something.  I tell him we need to save our money for certain things.  I remind him that in our home, daddy goes to work in order to make the money we live on.  (I also tell him that in some families, the mommy works.)
      • When we’re outside, I emphasize that it’s our job to take care of the plants and animals.  I try not to let him hurt worms or bugs needlessly.  (Although I admit I do kill bugs that get inside the house.)
  • I tell stories.  Notice that storytelling comes up a lot on my blog?  You can do so much by making up your own stories for your children.  In my Jack and Piper stories, Jack and Piper take care of the forest and all the animals that live there. In these and other stories, I insert my ideas about why we need to be responsible without even thinking about it.

So that is a little of what I do, but I have to say for my five-year-old, being an older brother is probably the number one opportunity to teach him responsibility.  Everyday I see small actions he takes to help care for his brother, and I think he does it out of his own love for his little brother.  It’s wonderful to watch.  Will it take a little more creativity on my part to instill a sense of responsibility on his younger brother?  I guess we’ll see how this all plays out!

Thanks so much for reading about my homeschool priorities!  Please stay tuned because I’m going to write about the formal lessons I do with my five-year-0ld, some activities we’ve been working on, and I need to post some recent columns too!

Now give me those ideas (or children’s books?) that might help with building character and a sense of responsibility.

4 Responses to “Homeschool Priorities Part 6 of 6: Teaching Responsibility”

  1. Have you read the “Ames” series of books such as “Your Five Year Old”, “Your Six Year Old”, and so on? They have one starting at age 1 going all the way to age 14. These books are a MUST for parents if you ask me. They are based on 50 years of research out of Gesell Institute of Human Development at Yale. Yes, these children DO come with a handbook :) Just when you think your child must be outside of the lines of “normal”, these books quickly correct you and let you know that in fact your child is acting his/her own age. Hope this helps anyone reading this fantastic blog. Some folks count on experienced teachers to help them know what is and isn’t normal for an age. The days of teachers lasting for 20 or 40 years in a grade are likely over with the current attrition rate. My how the world is changing.

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