Home parenting How do you explain and teach responsibility to your child

How do you explain and teach responsibility to your child

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Responsibility is an important part of our social life. The easiest way to explain responsibility to children is with a practical example.

It is best to explain responsibility as clearly as possible, or simply show it. Children of all ages understand quickly what responsibility means.

You can find practical examples in the article.

How to explain responsibility to children

To explain responsibility to children, we first need to know for ourselves what responsibility is all about. The concept of responsibility is relatively abstract, making it difficult for our children to define it.

What is responsibility?

Responsibility is the assumption of an obligation with all the consequences that come with acting by the obligation and the omission of action. This means that we also have to reckon with the consequences of the obligation that has not been fulfilled.

But taking responsibility needs to be learned.

You know it with children. They immediately yell, “It wasn’t me,” or the children refuse to do chores. In such cases, there is still a lot of catching up to do in this area.

Almost all of us parents know, “Could you put away your glass? “Yes, mom”. But in the evening, the glass is still there. 

Annoying, but I’d say homemade. But don’t panic. We humans can learn to take responsibility at any age. And how it works, I’ll tell you here.

Responsibility is divided into two types:

  • The personal responsibility
  • The social responsibility
The personal responsibility

Personal responsibility is the obligation of every human being to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The social responsibility

Social responsibility is divided into the following aspects:

  • To support the well-being of others and
  • Pursue your own goals without harming others.

Responsibility for children declared

Always try to explain responsibility using practical examples. Small children can best imagine what you mean by that and empathize with the situation.

You are welcome to use the word responsibility in the explanation. An explanation based on a dictionary is of little help here, since the different terms are rather confusing for children. It’s better to explain the concept of responsibility based on the respective situation.

It is of course ideal if you take the opportunity and can explain it in a current event or at least shortly afterward. For example, after a fight with friends, when someone needs support with something, or in similar situations.

This way, you can easily support your child in an age-appropriate way, and they will learn from the situation how to take on responsibility.

Personal responsibility explained with an example

“You are responsible for what you do. That means that when you do something, you have decided to do it that way. No one else is responsible for your action because it is your own doing. 
Today, you chose which sweater you would like to wear. Now you may have realized it’s too warm. So, neither mum, nor dad, nor your sister can do anything about it. You made the decision alone. It may not have been the right decision. Now you know. If your decision wasn’t the proper one, you can, of course, change it. For example, just take a lighter sweater, or ask me which sweater would be the best.”

Social responsibility explained using two examples

”It is important and good if you help others. Sometimes other people, like your friend “Elemeno” for example, need help with crafting. Maybe because otherwise, he won’t finish in time. You don’t have to do this. But he will be happy if you offer help to him. And next time, perhaps someone will help you with something else, like tying your shoes.”

“If you broke something of your friend, you should apologize to her. She must be sad and angry. When your dinosaurs broke, you were also angry and sad. Her toy would still be fine if you hadn’t broken it. The best thing to do is start with an apology, and then we can all think about what we can do to make your friend stop feeling sad.”

At what age can children take responsibility?

Theoretically, children of any age can assume responsibility. Of course, the scope of responsibility in the baby’s years and infancy is still very limited. 

I think, however, that it is where personal when responsibility begins. A child bumps his knee on the table, and some parents or grandparents tend to blame the table. “Evil Table”.

I think it’s not very effective from a psychological point of view and personally. The child and the parents are thereby denied responsibility. That means the other person is to blame. In this case, the table. As you can see, we can start here to teach our babies and toddlers responsibility. Preferably, of course, after you have comforted your child. “Oh dear, you must have missed the corner and bumped your knee.” 

This works even with tiny children from the age of 2.5 – 3 years, but children can also take on more and more responsibility in the house and for themselves.


The defiance phase is the natural starting point for learning responsibility.

Many children do this on their own. Of course, it also coincides with the autonomy phase (also known as the defiance phase). Our children are now beginning to have “a mind of their own” and want to take on more responsibility themselves.

Social responsibility also becomes more important at this age (from 2 to 3 years old). Finally, our children can then express themselves better and interact more with others.

We usually start teaching our children social behavior at an early age. So that we don’t hit or bite others, etc. And we explain to our children that if they hurt or harmed someone, they have to apologize. These are the basic forms of social responsibility.

However, taking on perspective is important for social responsibility. This only begins to develop slowly at around 4 years of age. From school age, our children can then also better assess and understand the perspectives and assumptions of others. An important skill for helpfulness and empathy.

Be aware

Parents should, of course, help their children. Just because our children are responsible for something doesn’t mean we can’t help them. However, helping does not mean taking care of everything!

How do I teach my child to take responsibility?

individual responsibilityFor both typesSocial responsibility
Use the autonomy phase for yourself and let your child slowly take on more and more responsibility.Praise your child when they take responsibility.Use confrontations with others or play situations to train your child in perspective-taking.
Make sure that you let your child (possibly shared with you) take responsibility for accidents or whoops.Be a role model for your child.Let your children try themselves in social situations with others.
Trust your child.Let your child try and be there when they need your support.Depending on the age, your child should take on more and more tasks in everyday family life.
Depending on their age, let your child take responsibility for their basic needs, i.e. shopping, making meals, and washing.
Be very consistent with the tasks you have set and do not lose patience. 
Wait and persevere until the task is completed.

Don’t force your child to help someone or apologize, rely instead on explaining the other person’s situation.

Set specific age-appropriate tasks.
Set deadlines or time slots for tasks. 
Depending on the task, you can also let your child choose for themselves.
Analyze together with your child when something went wrong and try to look at different perspectives.
Formulate your requirements clearly and precisely, with intermediate steps. 
Don’t just expect your kids to know.
Responsibility chart

With these tips, you can slowly bring responsibility to your children in everyday life.

A daily planner for small children and a weekly planner for school children helps our children to keep track of their tasks and enables them to work through their tasks independently.


It is better not to combine the completion of mundane tasks with rewards such as chocolate or longer media time. Your child will probably not develop their motivation or even ambition.

4 responsibility examples of a child

Plants are the new pets

I don’t believe in giving children sole responsibility for pets. But you can start with individual tasks, such as brushing. However, pets are not suitable for waiting until a task is completed. They are creatures with needs. And so, in due time, we would have to relieve our children of the task.

Plants, on the other hand, are much less sensitive. Let your child choose a plant and use it to decorate the room beautifully. Then it is solely their responsibility. Of course, only when you have explained exactly what needs to be done and your child has mastered it.

Setting the table, the classic

It’s almost like a traditional home remedy. The children do the table setting. This is easily possible from the age of 4. Maybe not every day at first, but on a certain day of the week, for example.

Prepare clothes

Choosing the clothes for kindergarten or school themselves and putting them in the laundry basket in the evening is a nice and doable task for kindergarten children. The order in the cloakroom also plays a role. So put your shoes and jacket in the right place.

Manage paint stuff

Handicrafts and painting things are mostly coveted goods for our little ones. Leave the responsibility here with your children. Of course, you have to bring them here and put them away. But also tell, for example, when something is running out and needs to be bought later.


Most of our children want more responsibility anyway, and they enjoy it. Use this and encourage your child to learn responsibility. It is precisely this topic that demands a lot of patience and perseverance from us parents. So make sure you give the child tasks that you can stick with if the task isn’t completed. At least until it is fulfilled. 

In the beginning, unpopular tasks will undoubtedly require more stamina, but at last, the longer path will be worth it. After all, our children only learn responsibility by doing.

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