How to inspire responsibility in children

Try defining ‘responsibility’ to yourself in simple words and you’ll see that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Teaching and inculcating children with it is even more challenging. Even the dictionary meanings of the term is very circular. For eg: it’s is a state of being responsible, accountable, answerable.

This difficulty arises because ‘responsibility’ is a complex value made up of a number of independent values. It means we keep our word, do what we say. It also means we make our own choices. It can mean that we need to accept the consequences of our actions. And it also means that we think of consequences before we act. It means that we should do the ‘right’ thing in any situation. So, you see it’s a complex value.

So when I was looking this up, I came across an interesting article on mbaresearch.org that explained how responsibility is made of five essential elements and once we know these, we are better positioned to teach them to children. The five elements of responsibility are honesty, compassion or respect, fairness, accountability and courage.

To be honest is to speak and value the truth, to base decisions based on facts and not emotions and finally to acknowledge that there are aspects of ourselves that need to change for better. To be compassionate and respectful is treat everyone with kindness that we expect from others and be tolerant of the differences you may have with them. To be fair means to balance our own needs with those of others. To be accountable is to acknowledging the consequences of your own actions, decisions and mistakes and keeping our promises. To show courage is to do the right thing even in the face of challenges or difficulties.

So how do we teach responsibility? First by demonstrating responsible behaviour ourselves and then explaining the importance of responsible behaviour.

As a start, we can model ourselves to act responsibly and teach children to emulate us to:

  • Follow the rules
  • Tell the truth (out of trust & without fear of punishment)
  • Admit our mistakes
  • Finish tasks with care and on time (household chores, homework, project etc)
  • Always act appropriately (wherever we may be, be kind and respectful in all interactions)

This is how I am go about this. However, we should also realise that it’s hard to be responsible and it’s not always possible to do the right thing all the time. Even adults find it hard. So, make allowance for children to make mistakes and falter. Responsibility is as much an expectation from ourselves as it is from our children.

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