Personal Responsibility Activities for Teens

By Erica Loop
Teenager washing dishes in kitchen.
Teenager washing dishes in kitchen.

Teens yearn for the independence that comes along with being a young adult. Still, your child needs help developing the sense of responsibility that this freedom requires. Before you give in to your teen's desire to act like a grown-up, a few personal responsibility activities are in order to help her understand what maturity really means.

Keep Score of the Chores

Your teen is part of the family, an "almost-adult" who is ready to start pitching in and helping out. Chores can help your teen learn the domestic skills he'll need when he's left the nest. Instead of doing everything for him, try a chore score board activity. Write down age-appropriate chores on a chalk or white board. Add points that are associated with each chore, for example, 10 points for planning and budgeting dinner, eight points for vacuuming, five points for folding his own laundry and three points for clearing and cleaning the dishes after a meal. Set a points goal, and create a "prize" for reaching it. The prize doesn't have to be a major purchase. You can extend his weekend curfew by a half an hour or give him an allowance bonus. He can take the responsibility to do the chores, or not. If he opts out of the activity, he won't get the prize.

Make a Strengths and Weaknesses List

Self-advocacy is part of personal responsibility. The ability to speak up on her own behalf -- instead of asking you to do it -- shows that your teen is becoming a mature young adult. Before she can clearly advocate for herself, she needs to know her strengths and weaknesses. For example, your teen's teacher says she shouldn't take honors English next year, but your teen knows she can handle the work, and wants to advocate on her own behalf. Your teen can try a list-making activity to highlight her personal strengths and weaknesses as part of learning how to take responsibility for her own academic future. She can make two columns, and write positive and negative points about her abilities. Instead of just writing "good" and "bad," she needs to think about what traits will help her case. This activity also helps your teen become more responsible for her own actions. When she lists her "weaknesses," she'll need to acknowledge mistakes she may have made.

Name Notable Examples

Public figures provide examples for your teen to follow -- or not. Help your child recognize what constitutes a positive role model. Instead of identifying these role models for your teen, help him think critically and find his own notable figures. Ask your teen to comb through the current news or do some historical research to find a few well-known people who have accepted responsibility for their actions, and a few who haven't. For example, he could research news stories that detail a prominent business figure who has owned up to embezzling money.

Role Play the Consequences

Teens often feel that consequences moderate their behaviors when it comes to personal responsibility, according to a 2007 study in the "Journal of Student Wellbeing." Your teen may still need some help, however, to recognize the impact that these consequences have. Set up a role-playing scenario in which you and your teen act out a situation that involves personal responsibility. For example, you can play the role of a teen and your child can play the role of an employer. You can show her the consequences of failing to take on personal responsibilities by pretending to not show up for your job. As the employer, she must explain the consequences to you.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.