You asked

What can I do to encourage my child to be responsible?

At two, and even three and four years old, your preschooler does not really grasp his or her place in the family, the community, or society in general. Your child still believes that the whole world revolves around him or her, and will for some time to come.

As such, your child is not yet ready to accept any complicated responsibilities, but it is possible to begin teaching your child that he or she is responsible for some things in life. In fact, your child is probably constantly underfoot, looking for ways to ‘help’ as you attend to your responsibilities – so let him or her!

Start by choosing tasks that your child is capable of doing. Putting toys back in a toy box, or his or her own shoes in a cupboard, are well within your child’s abilities. Your child can also carry things for you, or hold things if you ask, and these kinds of simple tasks will make your child feel important, and proud of him or her self.

Taking responsibility for your own life, being organised, and taking care of your own possessions is a good way to teach your child responsibility. Children learn by mimicking, so make sure that you’re a good example of a responsible person.

Teach your child that taking care of responsibilities comes before having fun. Tell your child that you and he or she can watch the movie your child has requested, but first, you need to pack away the toys that are in the living room.

Get into a routine of sorting out daily tasks at specific times. If your child knows that cleaning the room comes before lunch or a snack, he or she will be more inclined to do them when they need to be done.

Make chores fun! Even washing a car, packing away toys, or folding laundry can be fun, and the more fun the tasks you give your child to do are, the more likely they are to do them.
Give your child a little more time to complete tasks too. Don’t automatically pick up toys for him or her. Rather let your child take the time to do the task him or her self – even if it takes longer that way.

Use positive phrasing instead of negative. Instead of saying if, use the term when. That way, your child knows it’s a definite, rather than a bribe, on the off chance that your child decides to do what you’re asking for.

Praise your child profusely when he or she does what he or she is supposed to do, and don’t take the occasional slip up too personally. There will be days when even if you follow these tips, your child would rather throw a tantrum than pick up his or her dirty clothes, even if it does mean an extra cookie with his or her snack. Take those days in your stride, and keep at it. Eventually, your child will accept that responsibility and rewards go together hand in hand.

More questions

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