How to Teach Kids Responsibility

We’ve got a tradition of going away in the summer holidays. In the beginning the thought of getting four kids packed to go on holiday seemed like a massive task and staying at home seemed easier! But it’s so worth the effort and the memories you make are amazing! Even the not so good memories end up being hilarious stories that your kids will talk about forever!

I remember on our way home from Denmark last year Jewel started vomiting in the car and I handed her a plastic bag, only to realise it had a hole in it! So we stopped at a petrol station and I chucked her clothes in the bin! It was bad at the time but now we find it hilarious! This year we’re camping in Bremer Bay and our campsite only cost $300 in total for a week! We’re going fishing, swimming, playing Monopoly and I can’t wait!

This is how I manage the packing: each child writes their own packing list and is responsible for their own packing (except Elijah of course!). If we get to the destination and they have forgotten bathers, they must buy bathers at the nearest op shop using their own money, which may be pocket money from house chores, or birthday/Christmas money from relatives. It may seem harsh, but you only have to do it once for them to learn. Last year the three older kids all forgot essential items and had to buy them at the op shop. That meant less spending money for Mr Whippy! Today I reminded the kids that they would have to pay for anything on the list they forget to pack and I have noticed they have been very thorough and careful with their packing! Yay!

It may be tempting to interfere and make sure they packed properly but I must resist and not rob them of the experience of learning. Let’s say last year I offered to buy their things for them ‘just this once’ because ‘we’re on holidays after all’, then they wouldn’t have learned their lesson and wouldn’t have packed thoroughly and carefully today! If one of my kids does forget something, I’m not going to get frustrated and shout: ‘I told you to pack that! You never listen!!!’ Instead, I will calmly say, ‘I’m sure you’ve learned a lesson and that will help you to remember next time. We’ll go to the op shop so you can buy a wetsuit.’ Kids learn from consequences.

If I attempt to control my child by yelling or manipulating, they think, ‘I need to do what mum says so she doesn’t get upset.’ I’d be teaching them to be a people pleaser! Not good! If I rescue my child they think, ‘I don’t have to do anything because mum will do that for me.’ That is teaching them to be an irresponsible adult and that someone else will cover for them. So as the Boundaries guys say, parent with love and limits. A limit is: ‘you are responsible for packing your things for the holiday. If you forget something you must buy it yourself at the op shop.’ Love is kindly saying, ‘Oh never mind love. I’m sure you’ve learned a lesson and will remember for next time.’

As a parent it is my job to draw the line. It is my child’s job to test the line by crossing it! As a parent it is my job to bring my child back to the line with love. So I’m not shocked when my child crosses the line- it’s actually their job and is how they learn about limits. Focus on the responsible adult they will be and how great their life will be knowing that there are consequences to their actions! If I slip up and yell, I apologise to my kids otherwise I’m teaching them its ok for people to shout at them, and that they can shout at me! Each day is an opportunity to prepare my kids for the real world so when they’re adults they’ll have a great life! Hope you are enjoying the beautiful summery weather and creating some wonderful memories!