Kids who lose things, kids who forget things … ugh! Here’s a how-to for helping kids develop personal responsibility and become forget-me-not kids.
A close friend and mother of four children recently expressed concern for her oldest son’s lack of responsibility. She chatted about how frequently her 10-year-old daughter loses her gloves or never remembers to turn off the TV before leaving the house. She reflected on how her 14-year-old twin sons walk out the door right past their backpacks three mornings out of five. As the conversation progressed past mere chatter, the question of their level of responsibility for themselves and their actions came under fire.
She wondered about her inability to teach her children and felt a sense of panic in how fast they had grown. When would they learn? Would they ever develop the sense of personal responsibility that is necessary to be successful adults?
“My son would lose his head if it wasn’t attached.” “My daughter consistently forgets to bring her homework home” and “I can’t find my sneakers” are phrases heard daily in many households. Adding to the frustration of constantly having to find lost possessions, parents worry about their child’s ability to demonstrate responsibility for their personal items and behavior.
Because responsibility is typically not an inherent trait, many children struggle to understand the far reaching effects of being responsible – or irresponsible. Helping a child develop personal responsibility is a lesson that requires time and patience. It also requires parents to understand how their children process responsibility’s role in their life.
It’s Never Too Late to Begin
What are you to do if your 10-year-old has no inclination for keeping track of his possessions, or your teen is overwhelmingly irresponsible? “The first step is to not give up,” says life coach and professional organizer Lori Schmidt. “Everyone has the ability and potential to enhance his level of responsibility, you just have to know where to begin,” she says.
Schmidt recommends parents begin with assessing the specific areas their children need help with. “For some children it’s actually working on their memory skills more than responsibility. For others, it’s restructuring their attitudes,” says Schmidt. A child who appears to have a lazy approach toward responsibility for belongings may in fact feel overwhelmed about how to be responsible. Forgetfulness or a feeling of being overwhelmed can easily be perceived as a lack of responsibility.
Schmidt recommends reinforcing responsibility with reminders and clues. Place an “out-the-door” checklist on your refrigerator for kids to refer to before leaving for school. You can also opt for tacking a bulletin board up in his room to create a central location for reminders, notes and a calendar to chart his responsible progress. Parents can also subtly guide children to be responsible by modeling it and including children in tasks that require responsibility.
Source: Your Adolescent by American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Harper Resource; $27.50)