By Cammie Jones

I am guilty of sometimes doing too much for my girls, even though they are completely capable of doing it themselves. Some of the reasons for this are selfish from my end because I want the task done my way (e.g. folding clean laundry and putting it away for them). I still make my kids’ lunches too. Why do I still do this for my 10, 14 and 16 year old girls? My mom made me an egg salad sandwich and packed a real coke for me every day through high school. It was such a treat so I have carried on the tradition and do the same for my girls. But I wonder if I am truly doing them a service? There are many responsibilities, expectations and chores that can be assigned to your children depending on the child’s age that will allow him to show ownership and hopefully one day make a positive contribution to society.

I recently found an informative article about teaching responsibility to your children. Here is what an article from the Center for Parenting Education says being “responsible” means:

– being dependable so people know that they can count on you

– keeping one’s word and agreements

– meeting one’s commitments

– doing something to the best of one’s ability

– being accountable for one’s behavior

– accepting credit when one does something right and admitting mistakes when wrong

– being a contributing member of one’s family, community and society

Who does not want this for their child? The question is how to go about teaching your children about being responsible and what the expectations are at each age. Obviously, a four year old will be expected to do a lot less than a 14 year old.  However, life skills can be taught and expected of your child beginning as early as age two. An article from the Family Education website by Lindsay Hutton called, “I Did it All by Myself! An Age-by-Age Guide to Teaching Your Child Life Skills” gives examples:

Ages 2 – 3

Small chores (putting dirty clothes in the hamper) and basic grooming (brushing teeth) are a couple of tasks a child this young can do. This is also a great time to get your child to help set the table for a family meal. Small and simple expectations will show your child how to pitch in and be an active member of the family.

Ages 4 – 5

Your child should know his/her full name, phone number and address by this age range. She should also know how to make an emergency call if need be. A child between the age of four and five begins to understand the basics of money, should able to clean up after themselves and feed any pets.

Ages 6 – 7

At this age, your child should be able to make a simple meal such as a sandwich and can help clean up after a meal by washing dishes or loading the dishwasher. He/She should be expected to make his/her bed without help and bathe himself without assistance.

Ages 8 – 9

By this age, your child should be taking pride in their personal belongings and taking good care of these items. This might include putting up a bike or scooter in the garage, the Legos or dolls in the bins or putting up clothes and shoes in the dresser or closet. Taking out the trash, sweeping and cleaning up after themselves can now be assigned.

Ages 10 -14

These are the years your child begins to gain more independence. Staying home alone is okay (for brief periods of time age nine to 12) and doing small chores such as laundry, using the oven to cook, changing bed sheets and other more involved chores can be performed without a parent’s supervision. Taking care of younger siblings is also expected by the time the child is 12 to 14.

Ages 14 and Up

By the age of 14, most of the skills mentioned should be mastered. In addition, cleaning, filling the car up with gas, changing a tire, replacing the vacuum bag, going to the grocery store and figuring out dosages on medicines should be expected. More advanced skills are learned as your child prepares for adulthood.

Remember that every child is different and every parenting style also differs so use this as a guide. If your child seems behind in some areas, don’t worry. However, it is good to always expect more than what you think your child can do and give them a chance to show you how responsible they can be. The more you empower them, the more productive and contributing adults they will hopefully turn out to be!

This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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