7 Ways to Teach Your Child about Responsibility

You want your child to put their plate in the dishwasher, but they leave it in the sink.  You want them to return home at curfew, but they return home 30 minutes late.  You ask them to be a role model for their younger sibling, but they argue over the remote control.  What do we do when we work at teaching children responsibility yet they refuse to accept it?  Here are some helpful guidelines to follow when your child would much rather play the blame-game, than to take ownership for themselves:

 1.  Define choices and consequences

Sit down with your child and engage them in a conversation about what they are responsible for, and what choices will produce the best outcomes for them.  Explain that responsibility means paying attention to their own behaviors and actions. Let them know that you will be there to help them make good choices.  Also explain the consequences should they choose to make an irresponsible choice.  Laying the groundwork before an incident happens allows your child to understand that they are in charge of their quality of life by the choices they make.  Likewise, it helps you to remain calm and to not overreact when your child chooses to be irresponsible.  You can simply implement the consequence discussed and avoid getting sucked into an argument over the outcome of their choice.

2.   Stick to the rules

Follow through on what you say.  This is so important for you to remember as a parent.  Children and teens need to know that there are consequences to their bad behaviors. They need to understand that those consequences are consistent.  Teaching children responsibility requires consistency. Without it, you send the message that the rules only apply some of the time. You give children ammunition for the next time you try to implement a consequence where there was none before.  If you continually overdrew your banking account, your bank would consistently charge you an overdraft fee. They wouldn’t charge you only sometimes, or when it was convenient for them.

Your kids will not always pick the best times to break the rules; their misbehavior may impact you and the plans you have.  If your child throws a fit in the middle of the grocery store and you have told them that they would not be able to shop with you if they choose to scream and yell, then you may have to pause your shopping and return at a later time so that you can remove your child from the store.  While it may not be convenient for you to come back an hour later, it is important to teach your child how to be responsible by demonstrating that there are consequences to their behaviors.

3.   Make it easy

Let your child know that you are a safe person to come to when they make a mistake (because they will!).  After you have given a consequence for their misbehavior, make sure to calmly approach them and have a conversation about why they received the consequence they did.  Instead of reacting to your child’s poor choice with anger, use the experience as an opportunity to teach them a lesson in responsibility.  Let them know that everyone makes mistakes, (yes, even you), and make sure they know that it is more important to be honest about their mistakes, that they learn from the situation, and that they know the difference between right and wrong.  Discuss the situation and explore other ways in which they could have handled the situation differently.  Being calm and approachable makes it easier for your child to own up to their mistakes, and makes it more likely that they will admit to their wrongs in the future.

4.   Highlight their success

Everyone loves to hear that they have done a job well done, kids included!  When you notice your child being responsible for themselves and their behavior, make it known.  Let them know that their effort to be more responsible has not gone unnoticed.  So often we focus on the moments that do not go well, that we lose sight of the moments that do.  The more you focus on the positives and look for the moments where your child does choose appropriate behaviors, the more those behaviors are reinforced.  Your child will feel encouraged and proud of their good choices, inevitably increasing them, making for a more positive environment.

5.   Expectations versus hard work

Be aware of the expectations you might have, and do not overlook the hard work that your child is putting in.  If you ask your child to get themselves ready in the morning, they may put together an outfit that is mix-matched and hair that is a little messy.  Don’t criticize.  Recognize a job-well done and recognize the hard-work they put into getting ready on their own.

6.   Model behavior

What you do and say are often the biggest influences on your child’s own behaviors.  They look to you on how to navigate situations, and the way you model responsibility (and talk about it), becomes the standard.  If you expect your child to make their bed each morning, you must do so as well.  If you would like your child to be polite and respectful to family and friends, you must demonstrate that in your own relationships too.  Ditch the phrase, “I can do it because I’m the adult,” and hold yourself to the same standards that you expect from your child, because remember, you are always modeling and teaching your child how to be responsible.

7.   Don’t give up

Remember, teaching children responsibility to learn new behaviors and skills is a process.  Change does happen, but it does not happen overnight.  Be patient with your child because they will make mistakes along the way, as will you, and that is okay!  Stay calm and focus on how far they have come, versus how far they have to go.


Helping or Hurting: Tips for Teaching Children Responsibility

School is now in full swing! Congratulations, you and your family have successfully survived the back-to-school madness. The teachers have all been met, the physicals complete, school supplies purchased, and the homework is pouring in.

When a parent receives the frantic text from their teen, the note from the teacher, or the tearful story from their first grader, stating an assignment was forgotten, not turned in, forever lost… how should they react?

Children, adolescents and teens are not adults, but one day they will be. Here are some practical tips for teaching children responsibility while young, thus setting them up for success as they enter new life stages, and eventually reach adulthood.

Set Your Children Up for Success: 3 Tips for the School Year and All Year

Everyone needs help getting organized; help your child get and stay organized when it comes to all things academic.

  1. Designate a place for your child to keep their backpack (think cubby, wall hook etc.)
  2. Have a designated folder for homework/papers that are to be turned in to school
  3. Have your child prep their bag each night- try a daily check list to promote independence


Let Them Fail, Let Them Grow:  3 Lessons Learned Through Failure

Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time. But when parents habitually bail their children out, their children are denied the chance to learn from their mistakes. Here are a few examples:

  1. Failing to check their backpack and forgetting an item teaches children self-responsibility, but Mom/Dad checking, double checking and packing all items does not.
  2. Failing to turn in assignments on time teaches adolescents the importance of deadlines, but Mom/Dad rushing the homework to school every time it is forgotten does not.
  3. Failing a test teaches teens the importance of studying/time management, but Mom/Dad making excuses about their busy schedule to school board does not.


Teach, Don’t Shame: 3 Tips for Dealing with Mistakes

 It is easy to become frustrated when children forget to complete an assignment, lose the permission slip, or fail to inform adults they need help with homework. Try these tips for teaching children responsibility by dealing with the mistakes in a helpful and teaching manner, not a shameful one.

  1. Let natural consequences happen. Lost credit, missed points, lower grades – these are all natural consequences.
  2. Don’t expect perfection; stop berating. Natural consequences have lasting effects, berating only isolates the child/teen from seeking help in future.
  3. Empathize, but also offer solutions. Let your children know that failure happens; offer helpful solutions. Remind children that you are on their side and support them, but you cannot do the work/rescue them every time


Children, adolescents, teens and parents make mistakes; mistakes and failings teach us life lessons. Setting children up for success prevents a good portion of failings, it also teaches them to take responsibility for their own work. When children do fail, remember to offer both support, and solutions.


3 Fun Ways to Involve Children in Decorating and Setting the Thanksgiving Table

Can you believe it’s already Thanksgiving? Are the kids ready for a few days off?  This is the time of the year where families come together to celebrate one another and give thanks for what we have. You might be wondering how to get your kids into the spirit of the holiday, be thankful, and work together in a healthy way. Below are three ways to help your children learn positive independent skills while decorating for the holiday.

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  1. Handmade Turkey Place Settings

Materials: Scissors, construction paper, and crayons/markers/colored pencils

Procedure: Have your child trace his/her hand on a piece of brown paper.  On the thumb draw the face of a turkey. In the palm of the hand, write the person’s name who will be sitting at the table.  On the other four fingers (the feathers) write four positive things about that person.  Cut out the handmade turkey and place it on the table where that person will be sitting. It will be a nice surprise for your family and friends!

  1. Painted Tablecloth

Materials: Paint (orange, red, brown, yellow, green), markers, paper plates, white tablecloth (easily found at the dollar store), and leaves (from outside)

Procedure:  Have your child pick out four leaves from the front yard. (There are always a ton in the yard around this time of the year). Place the the white tablecloth down on the table. Use the paper plates to pour the different color paint on each plate.  Dip the leaves in the paint and onto the cloth. Repeat with the different colored paint and the different leaves to make a colorful cloth. Lastly, have your child dip their hands in the brown paint to make hand turkeys. This table cloth can be used as an unique cloth for the appetizer, dessert, or kids table.

  1. Turkey Napkin Rings

Materials: Construction paper, wiggle eyes, scissors, markers/crayons/colored pencils, glue, empty paper towel tube (cut in about 1 and 1/2 inches)

Procedure: Have your child cut out a circle for the head of the Turkey on brown construction paper ( it should be half the size of the paper towel ring). Glue the wiggle eyes on the circle and draw (or cut on yellow construction paper) the beak. Glue the head onto the ring.  While that is drying, cut out different colored feathers on the construction paper. Glue them on the inside of the ring behind the turkey head. When it is finished, slide the napkin into the ring and put it on the plate. It is a festive way to add a personal touch!

Remember to be enthusiastic and proud of your child’s work. This helps encourage positive self-esteem and independent skills. Remind your kids that things don’t need to be perfect, but they just need to have fun!


Sibling Rivalry – How to Maintain the Peace

Sibling Rivalry: Common and Normal?

Does it ever feel like your kids just CANNOT get along?

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is common in ALL families with more than one child and happens at every age.  While it may be comforting to know that sibling rivalry is typical,  it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to manage.  Instead of getting caught in the middle of their squabbles, learn ways to reduce their rivalry before it begins with these simple steps!

Ditch the comparisons and promote uniqueness.

Each kid is different and has different strengths and skill sets.  Embrace them!  While one of your kids may be athletically talented, your other kid may be gifted in math. or the arts.  Recognizing their individual strengths and encouraging them to follow their passions boosts self-esteem and reduces the need to be “better” than their siblings.

When you foster unique strengths and talents, you allow your kids to grow and succeed in their strongest areas. This helps children strive to achieve their own individual goals, while limiting the need to compare one child to their sibling.

Spend quality time with each of your kids.  

Kids often fight to gain the attention of their parents.  With a house full of siblings, it is easy to feel “lost in the shuffle” of the busy routines and activities.  This lends way to attention-seeking behaviors, both positive and negative.  Remember, even negative attention is better than no attention at all.

Take 15-20 minutes each day to spend quality time with each of your kids. Whether it’s reading a book together or playing a game of catch, your kids will feel loved and will learn that they do not need to fight to get your attention.

Take a step back.  

Don’t jump in to save the day!  When you hear a fight break out between your kids, give them a chance to settle things on their own.  Resolving conflict is an important life skill. Whenever possible, keep yourself busy with something else while they attempt to come to an agreement.  This will give them an opportunity for valuable learning,  while simultaneously removing the attention they may be seeking from fighting.

Demonstrate positive problem-solving skills.  

When your kids are unable to resolve the conflict on their own and the disagreement escalates, it’s time to step in.  Give each child a few minutes to cool down. Then, provide them with helpful strategies, such deep breathing, counting to 10, or going to their room to lie down with a book or their favorite stuffed animal.  When they are calm and ready to talk, listen to each of them one at a time and encourage the use of “I” statements, rather than blaming the sibling with “You did _________” statements. Using I statements encourages them to tell their version of the story from their point of view.  They can’t shift the blame onto their sibling and it promotes accountability for their actions.  Then, without taking sides, ask your kids to come up with solutions and compromises to their problem.  If needed, include a few solutions of your own and help them come to an agreement that works for everyone.

You may not be able to eliminate the rivalry permanently, but by following these simple guidelines you can be sure to reduce its frequency for a more peaceful home environment.



Family Vacation: 3 Activities to Please All Kids/Teens

Family Vacation: What Will We Do?

Your vacation is booked, bags are packed, and everyone is excited about their family vacation!  You arrive at your destination, and no one can agree on anything to do. While family vacations are an exciting time, it can also lead to an increase in frustration and disagreements. This makes vacations stressful on everyone. Here are a few ideas that will provide quality family time together and ongoing laughter for all.

  1. Family Game Night

    Whether it’s a rainy day and outdoor activities are limited, or the family is beat from engaging in non-stop vacation fun, a game night is never a bad idea. Games like Uno, Apples to Apples, Would You Rather?, Charades, and playing with a simple deck of cards, work well. Games help families have fun together, create lifelong memories, and strengthen family relationships.

  2. Family Talent Show

    Showcase your talents in a family talent show! Surprise family members with a hidden talent that they would never expect from you, or put together a group lip sync act. Discuss this idea on the first day, and the talent show will be performed on the final night of the trip. This will give family members time to practice and bond together every day leading up to the big show! Let the little ones be involved in planning, and maybe even have them create rewards to give at the end (i.e. most creative, funniest, etc…). Make it fun! Get creative with props and sound effects. Record it, so the family can watch and laugh together for many years to come!

  3. Family Movie Night 

    Decide on a few movies prior to the trip to avoid the back and forth, “I don’t wanna watch…but we ALWAYS…NOT AGAIN!!” Movie night is a great way for families to wind down and relax at the end of a long day after engaging in vacation adventures. Make some popcorn, have the little ones build a fort, get lots of blankets and pillows, and just relax!

Quality over Quantity!

A family vacation is a special time together that allows everyone the ability to recharge, connect, and to take your mind off of the daily routine. Plan ahead and don’t overbook the day. Focus on enjoying the quality time together rather than non-stop activities all day long.

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