In a society where academic achievement is highly valued and having a live-in domestic helper is common, children are missing out on opportunities to grow in responsibility and independence.
These crucial life skills are gradually built through seemingly simple housekeeping tasks as well as daily habits such as taking care of their own schoolwork.
Here are some ideas and strategies you can use to raise responsible, dependable children.
1. Assign Age-Appropriate Chores
Firstly, consider what basic skills are important for your child to learn, and what they are realistically capable of doing.
To start off with, very young children will need lots of directions and specific, step-by-step instructions on what to do. Adults may also need to be on-hand to supervise them.
With older children who can read and write, you can write their daily chores on a small whiteboard or give them chore cards that list the specific actions they need to take in order to complete a task. Specify the deadline for completing the task and the consequence if the task is left undone.
When using consequences with children, it’s most effective to balance both positive and negative reinforcements. If children are regularly punished for bad behaviour, they can become discouraged. It’s just as important to reward them for good behaviour with verbal praises, a hug, or even an occasional small and tangible reward.
2. Instil healthy homework habits
From day one, let your child know that it is his responsibility to know what homework he needs to complete and to get it done. If he is unsure of how to tackle a question, encourage him to ask you for help.
Don’t do the actual work for him. If need be, get an extra sheet of paper and demonstrate how to answer the question. He still needs to transfer the answer to the answer sheet or workbook himself. Affirm him for his effort and initiative in approaching others for help.
3. Allow them to pack their own bags
Packing his own school bag is an everyday skill your child should take responsibility for. The acts of referring to his timetable, checking if he has the right items, and planning for the day ahead actually work to build a foundation for important organisational and planning skills.
These skills will enable your child to handle independent learning and living in his later years; they will also help him grow in confidence and self-esteem.
4. Let them practice solving their own problems
Whenever your child forgets an item for school or other activities, refrain from bailing him out. Allow him to experience the natural consequences of not having the textbook or his homework file. If your child is anxious or starts to cry, provide him with support and reassure him, or give him tips on how to ask the teacher or a friend for help.
These experiences will teach them that the responsibility of their education lies in their hands, not in yours.
5. Let them set their own goals
Instead of dictating that you wish for your child to attain an A in every subject at the end of the school year, allow him room to learn to set his own learning goals. This will help him to be motivated for his own learning, rather than just focused on pleasing you. It will also help him gain an awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses.
Teaching our children responsibility can be most challenging when we have to fight our parental instincts to bail them from their problems. However, we can help them grow in maturity and responsibility by intentionally coaching them and modelling responsible behaviour.
Written by June Yong.
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