Encouraging Responsibility in Tweens

Developing a child’s sense of responsibility is one of the most important skills parents need to instill, and the tween years are the perfect time to start! When you teach your children to take responsibility for their tasks, decisions and actions, you help them develop into conscientious human beings who know how to be successful as an adult. Of course, getting 10-13 year-olds to actually act responsibly is easier said than done.

Following are tips for encouraging responsibility in your tween:

Step Back.

As parents, it’s often hard to know when showing genuine support slides into micromanagement. Many of us do things for our children today that we were able and expected to do for ourselves when we were their age. The older generation did not feel the need to remind their child of school due dates, negotiate with their child’s sports coach, make excuses to their child’s teacher, entertain their child in their free time, or solve their child’s problems. A tween is absolutely capable of taking charge of their own commitments. They should talk to their teacher or coach when they have a question or concern. They should remind you when it’s time to leave for sports practice. They should be managing their own time to meet school deadlines without your help. We must step back if we want our children to step up.

Allow Mistakes.

Mistakes in life are inevitable. No matter how hard we try, we all fail sometimes. However, even though we all know that failure is a normal part of life, we fear it. Ironically, despite our worst fears, we learn a lot from our mistakes which often leads to our eventual success. Failure is actually a crucial step on the path to learning. So, instead of trying to prevent your tween from making any mistakes, use them as teaching opportunities. Now is the time for teens to make mistakes – when the mistakes are small and you’re able to help versus making mistakes as an adult, when the consequences are bigger, and they have to handle it on their own. Read our previous blogs on this topic: Turning Mistakes Into Life Lessons and 5 Mistakes You SHOULD Let Your Teen Make.

Don’t Rescue.

It is so painful for us, as parents, to watch our children go through difficult circumstances, and we typically want to jump in and fix things. While this is a natural reaction of wanting to protect someone we love, we actually deprive our child from developing the courage needed to try new things and solve problems. Your tween needs to practice managing obstacles in life, and they need to have experience overcoming a difficulty on their own so that they gain confidence in themselves and realize they are capable. If your tween procrastinates on a big project, do not do the project for them! If your tween didn’t prepare for an exam, don’t make excuses to the teacher and beg for a second chance. Let them receive the bad grade and handle the results. One bad grade will not ruin their chances to get into college, and through the experience, kids will learn how to take responsibility for their actions and deal with the consequences. When you rescue your tween, they learn to expect that others will take care of things for them, and they will become a master of avoiding challenges, instead of facing them.

Assign Chores.

Household chores can be the perfect arena for teaching responsibility. Make sure their tasks are explained clearly, that a timeline for completion is set, and that a consequence is established if the chore is not followed through. Household chores provide tweens the chance to take on a task and complete it on their own without fear of public failure. It also communicates to children that everyone in a household is expected to chip in to help the entire family.

Encourage problem solving.

One of the best indicators of a young adult’s success is their ability to problem solve. This is a critical skill important in every area of a person’s life and highly coveted by employers. Good problem-solving skills can help your child create strategies for handling conflict, finding housing, successfully budgeting, and maintaining employment. While your tween might want a quick answer to their problems from you, it’s really your job to teach them how to manage their own challenges. While it can be difficult to watch a tween struggle, you will be so proud when they come up with their own solution. To learn how to teach this valuable skill, read our previous blog: Teaching Problem-Solving Skills.

Suggest tools.

One aspect of responsibility is being organized, so it’s important to provide tweens with the tools that will help. If you are still waking your tween up in the morning, provide them an alarm clock. If they struggle remembering due dates, get them a planner. If they are late for practices, show them how to use a reminder app on their phone. If they have trouble keeping school papers organized, take a fun trip to the office supply store to pick out binders, tabs or other organization tools. Tweens aren’t aware of the tools that can help them stay organized until someone shows them.

Teach money management.

One of the best ways to ensure your tween’s responsibility is to instill the skills of managing money. Giving your teen the opportunity to earn their own money, create a budget, and practice buying their own clothing and entertainment will help them to understand the concepts and learn from mistakes that are minor at this young age. You should not be giving them money every time they ask for it – instead give them a budget and encourage them to work within it. For more information on teaching money management skills to your teen, read our previous blogs: Money Management for Teens and Common Money Mistakes Teens Make and How to Avoid Them.

Follow through on consequences. Every time.

Many parents either don’t hold their kids accountable or don’t follow through on the consequences once they set them, which in turn just promotes more irresponsibility. Sometimes it just feels easier to avoid conflict, than to enforce rules. Unfortunately, if you don’t follow through on consequences every single time, your tween will learn that excuses, lies and justifications work great for avoiding responsibility.

Compliment their efforts.

Positive reinforcement of any actions your tween takes to show responsibility will encourage them to continue the behavior. Never underestimate the power of a compliment.

Take breaks.

It’s healthy to increasingly shift responsibility onto your tween, but as when learning any new skill, your tween will need breaks. You don’t need to demand responsibility every day in order to get your child to be more prompt, self-disciplined, and dependable. Keep in mind that your tween is still developing, so cut them some slack once in a while. They should have a day off, too!

Final Thoughts…

Learning how to meet responsibilities is one of the most important skills kids can learn when they’re young. As they grow older, they’ll have a good understanding of the relationship between responsibilities, accountability, and rewards. It makes them better able to deal with inevitable problems that arise in life, particularly as they get older. However, we should always remember that every child is different, and some children are naturally more responsible than others based on their own personality. Do not compare your child to any other children or siblings. As long as children are becoming increasingly responsible relative to their own starting point, things are progressing well.

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