Responsibility isn’t something we can impose on our children. There isn’t a formula on how to explain responsibility to them and suddenly have them be the compassionate, caring, committed individuals we hope they will be. Responsibility is something that has to grow from within the child. It finds direction in the values absorbed from the child’s home and community, but the child is ultimately the one who develops it.
That isn’t to say that parents can’t help with this aspect of life. On the contrary, children absorb the values they witness. Through modeling, we can show them what responsibility looks like. Since children’s inner emotional reactions to us and our understanding and treatment of them are decisive elements in how much they learn from us, we can treat them as individual people, worthy of respect. Ultimately though, the greatest way we can help children to develop responsibility is to let them practice it by making decisions on their own rather than merely expecting them to do what we tell them.
I have been pleasantly surprised how responsible my three year old son has turned out to be. We have spend three years giving him choices where ever we feel is appropriate and explaining our requests. For example, “Can you please pick up your toys so that we have room to play with the blocks?” I feel like those two factors have played a large part in helping to develop his responsibility. I’m amazed at how much this has shaped him already.