This is a collaborative post
Remember when you first brought your son home from the hospital? How small and delicate he was? At that point, you probably weren’t all that concerned about raising him to be a responsible young boy. Instead, you were stumbling around in a sleep-deprived state, trying to sneak in a quick snack before your fussy little man started screaming at the top of his lungs. Just taking things day-by-day to preserve your sanity.
And now? Well, your little man isn’t so little anymore. In the blink of an eye, he’s grown into a dapper-looking youngster who loves rough-housing, playing in the dirt–and his all-time favorite activity: Testing your patience. Sigh.
At this stage, he’s definitely old enough to learn what responsibility is and how his choices can impact the world around him. From money management to cleaning up his own messes, teaching your son responsibility at a young age is crucial to reducing his sense of entitlement. More importantly, it’s crucial to raising a kind and thoughtful teenager/adult.
So, how do you teach your son about responsibility? Here are five ways to get started.
- Encourage him to clean up his own messes.
Let’s face it, little boys are fantastic at making messes. They spill drinks. They track in dirt. They leave their Legos everywhere for you to step on and, as a result, make you contribute a few bucks to the swear jar.
But when it comes to cleaning up after themselves? Eh, not so much. Although your son may not be as fast or effective at cleaning up his messes as you, that doesn’t mean you should do it for him. He needs to learn to take responsibility for his messes eventually, even if it means more work for you.
Start by not allowing him to move on to the next thing until everything is put back where it’s supposed to be. Better yet, make cleaning up into a game. Set a timer for 30 seconds and challenge him to see how many toys he can put away before the buzzer dings. Always approach the lesson with positivity and a good attitude, and your son will follow suit.
- Let him help out with chores.
Contrary to popular belief, kids don’t need gold stars or similar rewards to do chores. In fact, studies show that toddlers are natural born assistants who are eager to help. Take advantage of their eagerness by roping them into kid-friendly chores early, such as doing laundry.
Laundry is an essential chore that every child needs to learn, so why not get your son involved on laundry day? You can show him how to wash his adorable polo shirts (machine wash cold to make ’em last) and the best way to fold those cute plaid button down shirts of his.
Sure, you may find yourself sneakily re-folding his clothes later, but just think of your teaching moment as an investment. Let him participate now, and you’ll be less likely to end up with a clueless teen or young adult who doesn’t know how to work a washing machine (face it, we all knew one in college), let alone how to sort his lights and his darks.
- Demonstrate the value of money.
Ah, so your son has recently taken an interest in money, has he? It could be that he has a natural affinity for numbers and will go on to become a successful account as an adult (hey, one can dream).
Or, more likely, he took an interest in money after you forgot your wallet and couldn’t buy him ice cream. Yeah, that was probably it.
Either way now is a good time to show him the importance of money. Start by giving him a simple saving jar that he can contribute to whenever he finds spare coins. After he’s built up enough savings, take him to the store (or a yard sale, if you want to teach him how to be frugal) to buy a plastic dinosaur or a toy car with his hard-earned money.
Another great way to demonstrate the value of money is by having him do additional chores to earn his allowance. He’ll be less likely to spend it willy-nilly when he understands that hard work = money.
- Stop forcing him to say “sorry” when he’s not.
Let’s say that your son stole his sister’s toys. You tell him to apologize to his sister. This is followed by your son grumbling an insincere apology, which is pretty much worthless to both parties.
Forcing your son to say sorry in this case just won’t work. He can’t take responsibility for hurting someone’s feelings when he doesn’t feel the least bit remorseful for what he’s done.
So, how do you make him understand that what he did was wrong? Instead of forcing him to issue an apology he doesn’t mean, wait for him to calm down and have him work through his feelings. What caused him to take away the toy? What was he feeling right before he did it?
After some reflection, work through the problem together and come up with a solution. Once he understands, he’ll be much more likely to give a sincere apology.
- Let him deal with his own problems.
Look, we’re not suggesting that you completely ignore your son when he comes to you for help. But if he’s a little stressed out over a homework project or he’s upset at a friend, try to resist the urge to jump in to make it all better.
Kids need to learn how to deal with their emotions and/or the fallout of their actions. If your son decided to play video games when he should have been researching his project (we’ve all been there), don’t immediately run to his rescue when he’s panicking about the deadline. Otherwise, he’ll grow up thinking that his actions don’t have consequences.
Instead, let him experience the negative emotions and work through his own problem. This way, he’ll learn that you’re not always going to bail him out when the going gets rough.
Always Keep a Positive Attitude
Face it, your son is going to make mistakes. At some point or another, he’ll drop the ball on his responsibilities and realize the consequences. When he does, it’s your job to guide him with unconditional love and support. Keep doing that and you’ll be much more likely to end up with a responsible young man who makes your heart swell with pride.