Responsible Children Make Better Siblings
We all want our children to get along. Sibling rivalry does, of course, occur. But ensuring this is in a healthy manner, rather than destructive, is something all parents and caregivers aspire to. How a child gets on with others, be they a relative, friend or a person they’ve just met is a skill they begin to master during the formative years. As caregivers, instilling a sense of responsibility through both teaching and our actions is one of the best gifts we can give.
Why responsibility is such a big deal
Responsibility is at the core of the human requirement to know that we’re making a positive contribution to the world. While children, of course, need to feel loved and cared for, they crave more than that to thrive and develop. A child wants to know that they matter and, very importantly, that their actions matter. With this in mind, our parenting skills should aim to show that responsibility is a joy to carry out, rather than a burden.
To understand what this means, consider this. Rather than telling a child that they ‘should’ do something, inspiring an attitude that means they choose to carry out tasks presents a completely different mindset. If we encourage our children to do things for themselves this will, in turn, make them want to do things for others. Both younger and older siblings will benefit from such a symbiotic relationship, as will their connections with friends, other family members and, indeed, anyone else they meet.
With this in mind, let’s look at some simple ways we can help our children develop a sense of responsibility as they grow.
- Lead by example: Children are like sponges and absorb our behaviours without us even realising. If you, for instance, habitually break promises (even small ones, like promising a trip to the park and not following through), then you’re setting them up to believe this is acceptable to do. You can also verbalise responsible actions, such as “Let’s turn off the lights in the room while we’re not in there. That way we don’t use up valuable energy when it’s not needed”.
- Take note when your child acts in a responsible manner: Compliment your child when they contribute in a positive manner. This could be when they’re helping out their sibling or that they remember to turn off the TV when they’ve finished watching. The more you acknowledge even the smallest of responsible behaviours, the more they will grow.
- Let your child help: Children naturally want to join in. So let them. If you’re doing the washing up, let them have a go. If you’re sweeping the drive, get them a pint-sized broom. Sure, it’ll take you longer, but that’s not the point. Such actions are a great bonding exercise, as well as allowing your child to step up and take responsibility when they see something needs to be done. It’s also a great way to make chores fun, rather than seeing them as a drudgery.
- Teach responsible interactions: There will always be times when siblings upset each other. You can’t prevent that. But how you react in such a situation is important. Forcing a child to apologise might seem like the right thing to do, but they won’t mean it. Instead, ask them to explain why they acted like they did. Once they’ve worked out the reasons for their actions themselves, ask them how they could make it better. Perhaps an apology will be forthcoming, or maybe they’d prefer a simple hug or to read them a story. It doesn’t matter how they make up for it, it’s the fact that they’ve chosen how to do it. Such actions will help them understand that their treatment of others has a cost, and that the right way of approaching this has a feel good factor that’s likely to be repeated in the future.
- Encourage self-motivation: It’s very easy to simply give orders (clean your teeth, go to sleep etc). Far better to ask them what they think should be the next move. You can gently guide them with leading questions, but the goal is to get them to begin to understand that they’re responsible for managing their own tasks.
- Provide structure and routine: We all thrive on this, and during the vital first years of life a routine allows repeated opportunities to begin understanding how to manage themselves. Even as toddlers the foundations of life skills are being laid, as they help you with tasks such as the washing and making meals.
Learning responsibility as they grow is a never-ending discovery, and the more fun parents and caregivers can make it, the better. At Nido Early Schools our wonderful caring staff continue the good work during the hours you entrust us with the most precious people in your life. It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to do so and we’d love for you to see us in action.
Visit www.nido.edu.au to find out more and discover your nearest centre.