One day, my wife and I looked at each other and noticed ourselves doing many things for our kids that they were fully capable of doing for themselves. We also noticed that our kids, to varying degrees, would plead ignorance or inadequacy in an effort to keep us in our enabling roles. We took a step back and asked, “Whose responsibility is this, anyway?” This started our journey toward achieving a more cooperative family.
We began to pay attention to when we felt especially annoyed or angry with our kids’ lack of responsibility in a certain area. With that awareness we could ask ourselves another key question: “Who owns this problem?” We discovered that the person who was most upset by the lack of follow-through on a particular issue was the one that cared about and therefore “owned” the problem.
When I “own” my child’s problem, I take the responsibility away from my child. For instance, if my daughter left a mess, I might angrily say, “When are you going to learn to pick up these toys when you are finished playing with them?” I clearly had a problem with the toys strewn all over — my daughter, not so much. She might clean up because I’m upset, but not because she feels responsible.
With this in mind, we began to slowly identify the areas of age-appropriate responsibilities for our kids around our house. At Sunday night Family Meetings we started asking questions like, “If someone makes a mess in the house, who do you think ought to clean it up?” or “How could you help make our house run as smoothly as possible?”
Identify which responsibilities needed to be taken care of.There were four keys to helping our kids be successful in “owning” their responsibilities:
- Decide who was responsible to take care of the task.
- Equip the responsible person to do the job.
- Hold the child accountable (kindly and firmly) when they didn’t do what was agreed upon.
- Celebrate with our children the growing sense of responsibility we saw in them!
We wanted to view our kids as capable and encourage them to take age-appropriate responsibility for their lives. As we continue to examine and evaluate ourselves, and let our kids “own” their own problems, we proudly watch them blossom into the helpful, responsible people God created them to be.
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