Teaching Responsibility

How to Teach Children How to Be Responsible for Their Own Actions

Point out that your child’s lack of responsibility does not solve the problem at hand, advises social worker James Lehman for Empowering Parents. When your son tells you that he only called his sister a jerk because she wouldn’t play with him, talk to him about how his behavior doesn’t fix the problem. The problem in this case is that he used inappropriate language. Her behavior might not have been nice, but his name calling was a result of his poor decision making skills at that moment.

Rely on natural consequences to help your child learn to take responsibility for her actions, advises Jennifer Marrero and Pamela Weine of Broward County School District in Florida. When your child refuses to do her homework, don’t allow her to blame her actions on someone else. Allow her to suffer the natural consequence of getting a bad grade and being unable to participate in a classroom celebration or fun activity. She’s responsible for doing her homework every day and facing the consequence of failing to do it helps to teach her that taking responsibility for her own actions can prevent negative consequences.

Stop making excuses for your child and his behavior, advises Lehman. Your child will never learn to take responsibility for his own actions if you are constantly stating that it’s your fault he didn’t have time to do his homework or that it’s your fault he was mad at his sister or his friend. As long as you are taking responsibility for his actions, such as saying you forget to remind him to do his homework and that’s why it isn’t done, he’s not learning to take that responsibility on himself.

Helping Teens Become Responsible Adults

Household Responsibilities

Collaborate with your teen to develop house rules. Share expectations with your teen, and ask her what she thinks of your rules. Welcome suggestions from her, and work on solutions and compromises together. By respecting your teen's opinion, you help her learn how to make smart choices, a trait she will carry with her into her adulthood. When discussing rules, divide the workload. Make your teen contribute to the household chores. Assign specific daily or weekly tasks to your teen, and ensure that she contributes to the household upkeep, whether you expect her to clean her room or mow the lawn. Such tasks teach responsibility.

Organizational Skills

Teach organizational skills. Encourage your teen to keep his room organized. Help him maintain a calendar that tracks his school assignments and extracurricular activities. Share organizational strategies that you use to help your teen find the best way to maintain organization. These skills encourage teens to meet deadlines, make appointments and maintain a routine now -- and into their adulthood.

Life Lessons

Your teen is going to make mistakes. Rather than harping on a poor decision, use it as a learning opportunity. Talk to your teen about why she made the decision that she did and, moreover, why another choice would have been better. Learning from mistakes helps teens mature and develop. Engage your teen in important conversations about their struggles, goals and long-term desires. Thinking critically and thoughtfully can help your teen develop into a caring adult.

Respect for Others

Being a responsible adult includes respecting others -- their beliefs and, often, their differences. Teach this trait to your teen by talking to him about diversity and the importance of respecting cultures, attitudes and opinions. Serve as a good role model by following these guidelines yourself. Encourage teens to treat their peers with respect. Teach them about helping others by volunteering together as a family to help an individual or family in need.

How to Teach Kids Responsibility

First of all we need to define responsibility. Responsibility is something we are held accountable for. Throughout the next few steps I want you to change your vocabulary from chore to responsibility, from homework to responsibility, and so on. This helps the child learn the term and associate there tasks to just that "responsibility".

Secondly you will need to find something your child will be held accountable for. This can begin at an early age. Give tem a daily chore around the house. Be sure to assign your child something age appropriate. They may need to be reminded at first but as they begin to complete their task on their own, let them know you are proud of their responsible behavior.

The older the child becomes the more responsibilities you can give them. Consider they will have responsibilities of their own, like homework, having the gym shoes ready on gym days. Then comes the car and being home by curfew.

Reward your children when you see that they are taking care of their responsibilities. Take them to the park, give them a sticker, an extra half hour before curfew, anything you would normally due, but now it's because they are being responsible. Hold them accountable for not taking care of their responsibilities. You can take away some of their play time until they have taken care of their responsibilities. Let them suffer the natural consequences that come from not being responsible. Don't run their homework or gym shoes to school if they forgot. It is their responsibility.

Lastly model good responsible behavior. Children learn from their best teachers and that is their parents.

Helping Teenagers Be Responsible

Provide Choices

Giving your teenager a choice helps him visualize alternatives and understand the consequences of actions. Parents have to lessen control and offer their teen the opportunity to begin with small choices, like what to cook for dinner or which clothes to buy. Take it step by step and gradually move to more complicated decisions. Assist your teen in the decision making, but let the ultimate choice be his.

Listen to Your Teen

Listen to your teen before giving your opinion on a topic. Let him know he can talk to you about choices and decisions he's making. Discuss his plans with him and what he would like the outcome of his choices to be. Later, after he's made the choice, ask whether he could've or should've done anything differently. He can talk through his decision-making with his parents and help refine how to make careful, thoughtful choices. Do not overreact during this communication or he might not feel safe sharing feelings with you.

Teach the Value of Money

Your teen will deal with money for the rest of his life, so it's important to teach him the value of it. Help him create a bank account to save money from a part-time job or allowances. Pay your teen for completing small tasks successfully and delete payments for any incomplete task. Author and counselor Timothy Sanford states that, "Incurring fees for irresponsibility can serve as personal reminders for teens." Showing your teen how to use his own money to budget and make purchases will lessen the chances of him asking you for money each time he wants to buy an item.

Assign Household Duties

Test your teen's responsibility within the home. Assign him a section of the house that he's responsible for maintaining. Give him a checklist of what you want done and also discuss it verbally. If you find that you have to constantly remind him of the checklist, he may not be prepared for more responsibility. When he can work independently, without continual parental guidance, this shows a level of maturity and that's he ready for added responsibilities outside of the home.

Things That Make Teens Feel Responsible


Your teen's first job will give her a variety of responsibilities. Not only does she have a non-family person to answer to, specific duties she has to perform and a schedule she has to keep, but she also gets her own paycheck and can learn to manage her money. Typical teen jobs include working in grocery stores, restaurants and farms. Thoroughly check out any job that your teen starts to ensure it's safe.

Freedom to Go Out

Allowing your child to go out with his friends shows you trust him, and maintaining that trust is an important responsibility. He has to take responsibility for himself, being smart about peer pressure to avoid drinking alcohol and engaging in other dangerous activities. He also needs to respect your rules outside of the home, such as not driving with someone under the influence and getting back home by his curfew.


As your teen grows, you need to give her more privacy, which makes her feel more responsibility for herself. Allow her room to be her private space and don't invade that space unless absolutely necessary. You should also allow her some private time with her doctor because she might have concerns that she's not comfortable discussing in front of you.

Goal Setting

Part of growing up is taking responsibility for your own life's path. As teens near the end of their high school career, they'll start planning for their future. This might include going to college, including responsible decisions such as starting their education at a cheaper college or planning to get applications in on time. It also can include planning for a career or attending a vocational school to learn a skill. While you can help your teen make these decisions, the ultimate choice should be up to him and you should support the decision he makes.