Children who can walk and talk are children who need to begin learning responsibility – children to whom YOU need to teach responsibility.
Picture this. Small children are given a play area and toys with which to play. They play nicely, and when they have finished, they pick up every toy without being reminded. They put the toys back in the proper place, and smile happily.
If you saw a video or read a book about such an occurrence, would you have to say, “I wish my children did that” or “That’s the way my children behave?”
Children are no more likely than adults are to exercise responsibility automatically. We must teach them.
Read “Cubby Bear’s Big Responsibility” to your toddlers or preschool children. Have reading children read the book aloud. Talk about how they are like Cubby Bear. Discuss the daily responsibilities they have. Work on the Responsibility Song, adding appropriate actions to reinforce it.
Introduce a responsibility to children in clear language. Show them what it involves by doing it for them. Then have them do it with you. Make sure they understand all that is needed, from beginning to ending. They must know both required actions and time limits for each responsibility.
Explain the consequences they will receive any time they fail to fulfill the responsibility completely. Tell them that excuses are seldom or never acceptable (depending on the responsibility).
Later, provide opportunity for them to exercise responsibility in an area you have set. Example: completing a craft, coloring page, or other task neatly by a set time. Set your timer so they will have accountability.
This first time, give them no reminders. Do not tell them time is running out. Have a marked clock or timer they can see, and let the children fulfill the responsibility.
When the timer rings, discuss whether or not the responsibility is fulfilled, and what to do in the future to get better results.