How to Teach Kids to be Responsible for Their Own Stuff


We were stuck in traffic on the way to soccer practice — ten minutes from home, ten minutes from the soccer field. Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t reminded the kids to bring their shin guards.
How to teach kids to be responsible for their own stuff. Help them learn to keep track of their own things, from important toys to loveys to sports gear.

 

We’ve arrived at soccer without shin guards before. Once, one of the kids arrived without shoes. You can manage to practice without shin guards, but not without shoes. There are fire ants in Texas!


I’m a big believer in natural consequences – except when fire ants are involved.


Anyway. This time the kids surprised me. All three of them had remembered shin guards. All those times we’d forgotten them, and they’d played without, had finally started to pay off.


My imperfect parenting is resulting in responsible children.


How to teach kids to be responsible for their own stuff. Help them learn to keep track of their own things, from important toys to loveys to sports gear.

Natural Consequences

For the uninitiated, natural consequences are an alternative to punishment, in a way. If my child leaves his toys outside in the rain, the ruined toy is the natural consequence. If she refuses to take a sweater to school, and is cold, that is a natural consequence.


An “unnatural” consequence would be getting in trouble for leaving toys outside (but mom brings them in before it rains.) Or Mom forces her child to wear that unwanted sweater.


How to teach kids to be responsible for their own stuff. Help them learn to keep track of their own things, from important toys to loveys to sports gear.


Using natural consequences has two main benefits.


1. It helps children learn – It’s all about providing real world experience (but in a safe way – of course you wouldn’t let them run out in the street in front of a car).


2. It preserves the parent-child relationship – You’re not the bad guy. The rain or the cold is the bad guy.


Kids need guidance and support in learning what natural consequences will be. Of course, too many surprise consequences will make a child feel insecure. But a few non-severe ones now and then can have real benefit.

How to Teach Kids to be Responsible

You can teach responsibility for a specific task in a 4-step process, much like a teacher’s lesson plan. I will readily admit that I don’t always go through these steps so neatly. Still, I think it’s helpful to think about it this way.

 

How to teach kids to be responsible for their own stuff. Help them learn to keep track of their own things, from important toys to loveys to sports gear.
 
1. Model – Get your child’s attention and show him what you do. Think aloud about the process you want to teach. For instance, I might begin by saying, “Let’s think about where to put the important Lego pieces. Let’s put them all together in this bin with a lid.” Then I’d show how I do just that.
2. Guided Practice – Let your child do the task with help. Prompt him as needed until he can do it independently. This step is where some parents get stuck. If your child’s developmental peers can
do something, consider trying out more independence. You can always fall back to more support and try again later.
3. Independent Practice – Let your child complete the steps independently, but check that it gets done.  Choose you words carefully. It’s better to say something like “What are you forgetting?” and have the child think about it, than to just jump in and tell him what he’s missed. Once he’s able to show responsibility under your close supervision, he’s ready to move on to the next step.
4. Ready for natural consequences – Tell your child that you are turning over responsibility to her. Then, allow natural consequences to happen (or not!). Refrain from saying anything that smacks of, “I
told you so.” Instead, express sympathy while acknowledging that it was her responsibility. So you can say something like, “I’m sorry you forgot your shin guards” or “Oh, I’m so sad for you – I know you meant to put that away where you could find it again.”

The Accidental Way to Teach Responsibility

These steps are more challenging when you’re trying to train your kids to do something that you have trouble with yourself. I definitely got stuck on remembering the darn soccer gear. Luckily, there’s a natural consequence for that. Thank goodness you don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent!
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How to teach kids to be responsible for their own stuff. Help them learn to keep track of their own things, from important toys to loveys to sports gear.

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3 thoughts on “How to Teach Kids to be Responsible for Their Own Stuff

  • Hil D

    An tips on how to teach husbands this lol?!?! My husband's upbringing seemed to lack this basic teaching! It drives me nuts when he leaves tools outside to rust then gets annoyed and says great now I have to buy a new one. Take care of the stuff you own!! Key learning tool!

  • The Resourceful Mama

    Great posts and great comments! Luckily our dogs were past puppy stage before kids came along and yes my husband needs it to. I found an extension cord he left outside today. We are working on this with our oldest. Teaching responsibility to kids can be hard. It is hard to watch the natural consequences sometimes and it is hard at times to determine how much responsibility they should have. I like your four transition type steps.