In countries such as Singapore, where there is a prominent maid culture, families often find themselves passing responsibility of all aspects of their lives to others, with children growing up accustomed to this behaviour, even adopting it themselves. As a private tutor working in Singapore, I would teach children who had no idea where their school bag was, calling the maid to find it for them, expecting the maids to clean up the messes they had made, and often failing to do tasks that they should have been used to by a much younger age, which is why, nowadays in such a blame-culture, where responsibility is passed to someone else, it is important to teach children responsibility.
Similarly to teaching children about the importance of financial literacy, responsibility is a key life skill which demonstrates a child or indeed a person’s attitude towards belonging, work and others, building them to be a better, helpful child who will later grow into a better, helpful person.
During my childhood, my parents took the time and effort necessary to help teach me life skills such as cooking, or doing chores around the house, enabling me to become much more independent from an earlier age, answering the phone from as young as 6 for my father’s business in order to take notes if he wasn’t in, or indeed making myself breakfast. The key to teaching a child responsibility is to start young. If you all of a sudden decide your teenager isn’t pulling their weight around the house and needs to start doing chores, of course you’re going to be met with conflict, yet sharing responsibility with a child from as young as a toddler will instil a much more natural path of responsibility earlier and more comfortably into their life.
When following the idea of starting young, remember that exact fact. If you ask your five year old to put their toys away or make their bed, chances are, it won’t be perfect so praise them for their efforts instead of criticizing the fact it isn’t perfect. You don’t have to bribe your child with rewards in order for them to help you around the house. Simply praise them for their good work, and soon it will become something they are eager to do. Children love to help out and be praised, and will eventually develop a sense of ownership of their responsibilities.
Remember that alongside teachers, you are responsible for setting an example to your children, and they will often copy your words and actions, which is why it is important to do chores around the house, whilst saying what you are doing. Use the inclusive ‘we’ to show how everyone is responsible for their actions, and how problems can be solved. By showing that you aren’t just expecting them to do chores, and you do them as well, you are setting a routine that they will follow. We aren’t saying that this structure will happen overnight, of course it takes time to instil a sense of responsibility into a child, but as Mary Poppins once said “practice makes perfect”!