I recall going on walks with my grandson. In his neighborhood, every home had a fence surrounding a front garden. As young as two or three years old, whenever he saw an open gate, he closed it. It seemed logical to him to take care of something that seemed unfinished and needed tending to. Had I told him it was not his business or unnecessary or to stop, I would have robbed him of a very important opportunity to know he could be a helpful, thoughtful, responsible human being.

What are the best ways to teach responsibility?

Involving children as young as possible in doing daily tasks teaches responsibility. It is an opportunity for them to feel valuable and develop self-esteem. How worthwhile they can feel when a parent offers guidance through open-ended questions that encourage them to problem solve. How proud children feel when they sense being appreciated.

What age can a child begin doing chores?

This is really a very easy question to answer. As soon as a child can do a task, that child is ready. A toddler can throw a used napkin in the wastebasket and pick up a toy. A young child can put dirty laundry in a hamper and match clean socks. A young child can help wipe up spilled milk, maybe not as expertly as their parent but nevertheless be helpful. How did the parent become an expert at cleaning up messes? By practice. That is why it is so important for a child to gain experience.

Often what happens is that parents become accustomed to doing things for their infant and then continue because they think it is their job. However, a parent’s real job is to let go as soon as their child is ready and able. That is how parents can prepare their child for real-life situations.

How can a parent guide a child who is learning to be responsible?

According to Dr. Charles Fay, Love and Logic Institute, “Listening to our youngsters’ opinions—even when they’re silly, strange, or downright scary—dramatically increases the odds that they’ll listen when it’s our turn to speak.”

Should a wise parent lecture or model responsible behavior?

Kids really do not listen to lectures. After about the first 15 words, any value is futile. So if parents hope to be heard, they need to contain their message to 15 words or less.

The better approach is through modeling. Barbra Streisand sang a meaningful tune Children Will Listen. The following lyrics stand out for parents who want to be a role model:

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey
But, children will listen

How can parents discourage entitlement?

Certainly, a parent’s role is not to spoil their child. Perhaps, that is the role of grandparents. There is an important distinction between helping a child feel special and developing positive esteem versus spoiling them with material things. There needs to be a balance in order to discourage entitlement. Following are some ways to achieve this:

  1. Model a positive work ethic and require the child to invest some work toward big-ticket items.
  2. Be kind and accepting of the child when mistakes are made; consider them learning opportunities.
  3. Avoid rescuing the child when consequences are to be faced.
  4. Practice respect, honesty, integrity.
  5. Demonstrate gratitude in all areas of life.
  6. Establish healthy, reasonable limits and boundaries.
  7. Acknowledge the child’s random acts of kindness.
  8. Encourage the child’s participation in volunteer activities.