One way to teach children responsibility in the everyday work of family life is to have them report back after completing a task. Many parents give assignments, assuming that their kids are completing the jobs, often resulting in frustration when they later find out that the jobs weren’t done, or were only done part way. Most children don’t naturally feel an internal sense of responsibility. You can help develop responsibility by requiring kids to report back. Children who do a job part way, easily get distracted, or don’t complete tasks need closer supervision, smaller tasks, and more frequent times of checking in.
Even older children sometimes have a problem with irresponsibility. Yelling isn’t necessary—more accountability is. It takes work to require kids to report back, but your investment now will give your children a valuable gift. Reporting back after completing an assignment is an adult skill. Employers appreciate it when employees report back. Whether children are three, eight, twelve, or fifteen, they need to learn this valuable skill.
Responsibility can be defined in different ways for different children. For the child who is easily distracted, responsibility could be defined as “sticking to a task until it’s completed and you report back.” For a child who tends to do a halfhearted job, you might define responsibility as “doing a job thoroughly without being reminded.” For the child who tends to do what you said and not what you meant, you might say, “Responsibility is completing the job up to the expectations of the person giving the instruction.” In each case you’re teaching children what it means to do a job with a sense of obligation to complete it well.
When receiving an instruction, the child should feel a little uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling is what responsible people feel when they have an unfinished assignment. Just imagine your own to-do list. If the time is ticking away and your to-do list isn’t getting smaller, you feel a bit uncomfortable and put in more effort. The uncomfortable feeling is lifted once kids report back and their work is checked.
Many parents start instructions well but don’t end them effectively. Instead of a feeling of satisfaction of a job well done, the child feels guilty, wondering when Mom is going to find out that he pushed the clothes under the bed or didn’t sweep the walk. Parents give their children a gift by requiring that the child report back.