5 Ways to Encourage Responsible, Productive Behavior in Your Kids

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.” – The Dalai Lama

Responsibility is one of the most important skills your child can learn. It influences all pursuits in life, affecting your child’s ability to make friends, to excel in school and to excel in her career.

Most parents understand the importance of being productive and responsible, but are unsure of how to begin teaching this skill to their children.

Children often learn best when they are having fun. Games teach children that life skills don’t have to be boring and encourage children to think about problems in unique ways.

Here are 5 ways to make learning responsibility fun:

Timed Competitions

Children love to compete with their siblings and friends, and even the most boring tasks can be turned into a game when you add a competitive edge. Try giving your child a set amount of time in which to complete a task. Announce, “Whoever can get their room clean first wins!” Or try saying, “Whoever can put away the most dishes in 10 minutes gets to go to bed late!” Tasks that your children were previously loathe to complete will suddenly become fun family activities.

Problem Solving Games

Children are creative thinkers who, when given the chance, can come up with unique solutions to problems. They especially love when they can display their knowledge to adults and think of things grown-ups couldn’t. Try presenting a family problem to your children. For example, if you’re having trouble getting children to participate in your dog’s care, try saying, “Muffy needs to be house-trained. Whoever can come up with the best strategy for potty training the dog can go to bed late for a week!” Your child will suddenly become invested in a task both you and he previously had little interest in.

Reward Systems

Child psychologists have found that rewarding good behavior is much more effective than punishing bad behavior. If there’s a particular behavior you’d like for your child to improve, a gold star chart can be the ticket to responsibility. Simply place a chart on the refrigerator and give your child a sticker every time she does the right thing. When the chart is full, she gets a special reward such as a toy, later bedtime, or family outing.

Teaching Parents

Children want, more than almost anything else, to have the same privileges as adults. They love being treated as mature grown-ups and will do just about anything to have their opinions respected. You can use this to your advantage by encouraging your child to teach you something about responsibility. Pose a specific problem to her and ask her to research the solution. Give her lots of crafts supplies and encourage her to put together a presentation to teach the whole family. For example, if your dog needs better dental care, ask your child to figure out how to keep the dog’s teeth clean. You may be amazed at the solutions she comes up with, and she’ll relish the opportunity to play expert.

Taking Someone Else’s Perspective

Empathy is the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes and predict how he might feel. It encourages responsibility toward others and a healthy respect for rules. This skill must be nurtured in children for them to develop it. Play games with your child that encourage her to adopt alternative perspectives. For example, while driving in the car, ask your child, “What do you think the woman behind us is thinking right now?” When children get into a fight, ask them, “Why do you think your brother is mad at you?” If you are angry at your child, ask her, “What would you do right now if you were the mom?” This not only gives your child the opportunity to think about other people. It also helps you to understand why your child does the things she does.

About the Author

Jane Warren is a freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers and families. Her numerous articles offer money saving tips and valuable insight on all types of family and pet-related topics.

Photo Credit: Doug Robertson


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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