October 2006 – Asset #30, Responsibility
by Kelly Curtis.
My good friend, Bridget, is the kind of mother I aspire to become — firm, but fair, level-headed communicator, and patient in her high expectations. She exudes these traits almost effortlessly, like she was born with them. This is unlike me. I exhibit solid parenting skills only with focus and lots of self-analysis.
I remember walking into Bridget’s kitchen one day several years ago and witnessing her children, ages 3 and 4. One was handing over clean plates from the open dishwasher, to the other, who was standing on the counter.
They were putting dishes away, just like they did every day.
My initial reaction was, “There’s a kid on the counter!” But my attention quickly shifted to, “Oh my gosh, preschoolers can do that?”
They had a system that worked and while it would have taken Bridget a fraction of the time to accomplish this chore, she let them manage it on their own. They took turns on the counter, communicated with each other and got the job done.
I remember that being the day I started giving my kids more responsibility.
Search Institute has identified “responsibility” as one of the 40 Developmental Assets®, which means research shows it’s a characteristic of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future.
Search defines responsibility for young children as:
“The child begins to follow through on simple tasks to take care of her or himself and to help others.”
We know that giving children responsibility is important. It makes them contributing members of the family. And it boosts self-esteem by providing tangible evidence that they can accomplish a goal, even if it means a broken dish now and then.
But what, exactly, does responsibility look like? Until I witnessed it in the children of a respected friend, I didn’t know what I could expect in my own kids.
Here are a few examples by age, as listed on chore charts, like the one shared at Overwhelmed with Joy:
Ages 2 and 3:
Learn to brush teeth and hair, wash hands and face.
Dress and undress with some help.
Help carry in groceries.
Set the table.
Put away groceries.
Help plan grocery list, help with shopping.
Wash mirrors and windows.
Separate laundry into piles of white and colored.
Fold and put away clean clothes.
Perhaps we can help each other with our collective parenting expertise. Each family is different, as is every child, but a frame of reference may help all of us to challenge our children to new responsibilities.
This month’s “comment brainstorm” is to share one or two responsibilities your children have mastered, or a chore you’d like to add. Be sure to indicate the age of your child (children), along with the chore.
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids!
I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.