Chores and Teaching Kids Responsibility

Learning how to handle yourself and your possessions is actually an acquired skill.

Ownership is immediate; kids start claiming stuff as soon as they can close a fist: “Mine!” Concepts like sharing, and taking care of said desired object, well, that comes later, and with practice.

It’s our job as parents to help kids automate tasks around their toys and other belongings so that monster trucks do not overrun our lives, and we are not doing the Lego walk of fire in the middle of the night. Here are a few tricks and tips to help get your toddlers to square one with ownership.

  1. Connect play and putting away. Before you pull out a game or a toy, inform children that at the end of the activity, they are expected to pick up the involved elements to put away. If you get resistance there, try a “time to put the toys away” type of fun song.
  1. Pitch in. The prospect of working alone may overwhelm kids, but like adults, they are often more enthusiastic about doing the work in a group. It goes both ways, though, and if they want you to help with their things, they need to help you with yours. This could be laundry, cooking, or yard work.
  1. Keep expectations age-appropriate. If you start young and keep the tasks proportionate, kids will naturally become accustomed to taking care of their things. Start with easily accomplished tasks and work up to bigger things slowly.
  1. Emphasize growing up. Kids want to get bigger, and they develop a healthy sense of self by marking their own progress. By illustrating that big kids take care of their things, they will learn responsibility.
  1. Positive praise. Reinforcing good behavior is always key. Rather than setting up a reward system (aka bribing), let finishing the task be the reward.
  1. Build in consequences. When kids flat out refuse to attend to their things, stash the items and remind them that if they want to play with these things, they need to take care of them.
  1. Rely on routine. Keep a schedule and stick with it, allowing a little flexibility but also maintaining times that are appropriate for play and clean up. This will reduce the crying or acting out because your child will anticipate that cleaning up is part of the deal.

These life skills will kick into gear with time, so measure your responses and be patient. The key is not seeing your child’s abilities as static, and recognizing when they are at the right age to get the job done. We all want our kids to have a healthy respect for owning things, and by placing the responsibility on them, they will grow to understand just how to do it.




About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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