By Amita Bhardwaj
If you have been noticing children around, odds are that you would have been exposed to those who take up tasks without being asked to and those for whom reminders for simple things fall on deaf ears. Clearly, if there is any rocket science behind this, it lies in giving your child responsibilities early instead of them growing up with a sense of entitlement. Here are 10 things you could do to ensure that the child does not just complete tasks but grows up with an inherent sense of responsibility:
This does not in any way mean to load the child with responsibilities, but to give age appropriate tasks right from the preschool stage. Think in terms of helping in laying the table, putting their toys in place and much more.
Ask for help
While you are juggling multiple tasks, make it a point to ask your child for help. This will be beneficial on several levels. It will make the child feel valued and you will get some quality bonding time together as you finish the task as a team. It will also teach the child that it is good to seek help and become responsible in lending a hand.
Be a role model
The importance of this cannot be over emphasised. After all, the child learns more from observing you than being told what to do. A good way is to ensure that you are able to demonstrate the sense of responsibility. After a meal therefore it is a good idea to say that it is now time for us to put the plates away and ensure that everyone does it. These will soon become a matter of habit for the child.
A sense of reinforcement goes a long way in motivating a child. Praising the child for work well done helps them in continuously taking initiative.
Keep criticism at bay
A natural corollary of the above is that you need to keep expectations realistic. So if a preschooler is laying the table, for example, do not expect it to be a work of art. Criticism can put the child off work and certainly take away a sense of ownership. This does not however mean that next time around that you are laying the table, you cannot give the child some tips on how they could do it.
Desist giving rewards
It is very easy to fall for this trap. More often than not we land up telling the child that if he or she does a certain task they will get a chocolate, ice-cream or pocket money. You could sometimes use rewards for tasks that go beyond the child’s normal household responsibilities. However, to use rewards for getting small tasks done will create a milieu that does not foster responsibility. Instead, the child looks at the tasks simply as a way to earn rewards.
Ever so often as parents we tend to prepare the road for the child and not the child for the road. One way of doing it is by taking away the consequences. What we have is a child who is ill-prepared for the real world. Setting ground rules such as a messy room means the child not having access to his playthings until the next day and following it through, helps the child understand the value and meaning of consequences. That said, do remember to keep it age-appropriate.
Setting a routine goes a long way in the child following through the structure offered. Sleeping at a particular time, having their school bag in order before they sleep, getting ready in the morning are responsibilities that are aided by having a routine in place.
As parents, even if unwittingly, we fall into the trap of labeling children. So if the child doesn’t clean up or loses things often, we call him “irresponsible”. Try to steer clear of boxing the child in with labels. Before you know it, it kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, try and help the child by telling him to ensure he has all his things in place before he goes to school or out to play so that he gets into the habit of looking after his things.
Avoid rushing in to help the child out of a difficult situation
While the parent in us wants to do everything to keep the child out of a difficult situation, it helps to allow the child to look for his or her own solutions before you jump in with yours. You have to allow the child to develop his or her critical thinking and problem solving skills. Of course, if the child is in any risky situation, which jeopardises safety, needless to say that your intervention is immediately required.
With a little bit of effort, you sure will turn your preschooler into a responsible adult.
(The writer is VP-Curriculum, Footprints Childcare.)