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Living With Rules
Rules and Responsible Behavior

Even very young children can take some responsibility for their actions or for taking care of themselves and their space. Set up rules for responsibility early and you can build responsible behavior in children.

Toddlers can pick up their toys. At age 3 or 4, children can make their beds (as long as you’re not a stickler for tautly stretched sheets). A 5-year-old can set the table and clear it. And, you can set up a weekly job sheet for school-aged children.

Here are some tips from Parenting.org (Girls’ and Boys’ Town) to help you successfully teach children responsibility:

  • Before assigning a responsibility, make sure your child is developmentally ready to complete the task successfully.
  • Show your child what is expected and talk through the task.
  • Remember, you can help but it’s your child’s task. Support your child—don’t take over.
  • Encourage your child, praising attempts, improvements, and completion of the task.
  • Break a large task into small parts, depending on your child’s abilities. The point is to make your child more confident about taking on responsibility.
  • If your child has completed a task the best he/she can, praise him/her. If you have to redo the job, don’t let your child see you.
  • Keep a chart to show just how much progress your child is making. Checkmarks, stars, or smiley faces go a long way in instilling pride for responsible behavior.

Setting up consequences for not following rules or completing an assigned task isn’t always easy, but it’s an important part of teaching responsible behavior.

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Updated on 4/5/2013