Teaching Toddlers Responsibility

Which of the three below do you think will benefit your child down the road?

  1. Going to the movies
  2. Watering the plants and helping you cook today’s meal
  3. Playing with Legos all day

If you chose number 2, you are correct. By helping you, your children learn about responsibility. And a couple of years down the road, you will thank yourself as they become responsible young individuals with competencies others their age may not have.

Responsibility is a learned skill or trait and people are not born with it. There are several traits that a person needs to have in order to be considered responsible, and these include: time management, perseverance, task commitment, decision-making, motivation, and communication. The best way to instill all these traits in your children and lead them to the path of responsibility is to assign them household chores and/or allow them to join in on the chores that you do.

When children are responsible, they are much more likely to succeed in the long run. Helping with chores around the house makes them feel more confident, needed, helpful, wanted, trusted, and fills them with many more positive character building feelings and emotions. Giving children the responsibility of household chores also allows them to develop faster, reaching a mature stage much earlier than children who were not given tasks or chores at a young age. According to research done by Marty Rossman, “the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20’s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four.”

Furthermore, research shows that giving children chores to do raises their self-esteem, makes them more responsible, allows them to deal better “with frustration[,] and delay gratification”. As kids join in on household chores, it not only generally increases their sense of responsibility but also makes them feel as “important contributors” to their families. This strengthens their tie and connection with the family and increases their self worth and value.

Upon visiting the United States last summer, I met a woman named Carol and had a chat with her about several things, among them was her four-year-old daughter. Carol lived on a ranch and owned horses as well as a couple of other domestic animals. Carol explained to me how she recently bought her daughter a pony. The discussion shifted from there to how having pets gives children the opportunity to practice and learn responsibility. Carol’s daughter has had pets of her own since the age of two, and she had taught her daughter that owning an animal is a big responsibility because it means taking care of it from A to Z.

Carol and I discussed how when children care for animals, they learn to be compassionate and put others’ needs before their own. For example, her daughter would not eat her own meals until she makes sure that her pets, including her recently bought pony, had all eaten their food.

Now not everybody lives on a ranch and certainly not everyone has a pony, you might even be allergic to them, but the point is that the little girl had a responsibility of her own and got it at a very young age.

Giving household chores are similar, and even better, because they teach bonding with the family as I have mentioned, contribution, and teamwork. Children learn to appreciate the hard work their parents put in for them every day.

Some parents may not want to put the effort in making their children follow through in their tasks or might not even think it is important that they do chores at all. However, not including children in every day chores has its costs. “Not being taught the skills of everyday living can limit children’s ability to function at age appropriate levels”. Teaching children to complete tasks and take care of themselves is vital for their development as individual beings. By involving them in household chores from a young age, parents “equip children with the skills to function independently in the outside world”.

Prioritizing a child’s academics or any of their activities over household chores, you might think that you are doing them a favor. The issue here is that whether you mean it or not, you are taking away one of their main “pillars of competency” on which they can rely by doing so. When your children help you and the family in the house, whether or not they do good in school or in any other area of their life, they know that they contribute to the household and to their family. This alone gives any child the moral support needed to get through issues. Thus, helping them develop and learn more skills they will need as adults.

There are a variety of tasks that can be assigned to children relative to their age. But do not underestimate your child’s ability. The figure below shows a few of the chores that can be assigned to certain age groups. I found both of the following diagrams useful, but you can follow whichever one suits you and your children more. They can also just be used as a guide as the types of chores may differ for each household.

Another important factor to giving children chores is your approach towards them; your approach matters. It is nothing new that children copy what they see: monkey see monkey do. So the way that you go about your everyday chores and the way you approach them plays a big role in your children’s acceptance of them. Your attitude and behavior towards the chores that need to be done will directly affect how your children perceive the chores and how they benefit out of them. This effect will last with them for a long time. So make sure that you approach chores and the assigning of chores in a very positive manner. Also, make sure to be aware of the way you act when doing chores yourself in front of your children.

“You can take some time to think about what tasks you need help with, what life skills your children need to learn, and what are each child’s interests and abilities.”

Some parents like to reward their children for things they have done. However, doing that can cause them to not do the tasks asked of them if there were no reward one day. Basically they can depend on it and would only follow through chores conditionally. It is important that children learn the importance of helping around the house simply because it is the right thing to do in essence. It is very important that they perceive chores as something that comes naturally with living in house in general. However, this only comes with time, patience, consistency, and perseverance from the parents’ side. So parents out there, please GYT (Give Your Time ;-] ) .

(In a coming article I will discuss the assigning of chores in more detail)


  • http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/responsibility-and-chores/part-i-benefits-of-chores/
  • https://tip.duke.edu/node/745
  • http://www.rewardcharts4kids.com/age-appropriate-chores/
  • http://www.sportsmomsurvivalguide.com/kids-age-appropriate-chores/

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