Despite all the running around during the holidays, this is a wonderful opportunity to teach your kids responsibility. An invaluable trait, responsibility is often learned by doing certain tasks that require initiative, persistence, caring for others, sharing the workload and accountability. The earlier the kids learn to be responsible, the better off they will be in their personal and professional lives. Here are a few activities you can encourage your children to explore over the winter break:
1. Identify a local not-for-profit organization where kids can volunteer. There is no shortage of organizations that support all sorts of causes—from hunger to the environment, to abuse and education. Try to match your children’s interest with the organization’s mission so they can put their passion to work. Helping others is a great way to learn responsibility: If you don’t do your job, others will suffer.
2. Motivate children to think sustainably. Kids are increasingly more sensitive to the perils confronting the Earth. When you help children become involved with sustainable projects, they learn to take responsibility for their personal impact. Kids also learn that regardless of how small, their actions matter. These earth-friendly projects can range from participating in recycling programs in your neighborhood to planting trees in local parks, creating compost with your family’s food scraps and conserving water and energy at home.
3. Have your child read to an elderly relative or neighbor. We all feel more charitable during the holidays. Let the children spread the good cheer by spending an hour a day reading to someone who lives alone or is in poor health. Building this kind of relationship with an elder helps them notice how important human interaction is for people to feel good physically and psychologically. Becoming the highlight of these people’s lives helps youngsters build a sense of responsibility towards older adults.
4. Clean out your closets. Assign a couple of days for your family to clean up rooms and closets and ask your kids to put in a separate bag clothes that are in good shape but that don’t fit anymore and to part with the toys that they no longer use. After you check the bags and wash the clothes make a family trip to the Salvation Army or thrift store, or even a local shelter or church. When young kids see that their toys and clothes are being donated to another family, it’s time to reinforce the importance of taking care of ones’ things so that someone else can enjoy them.
5. Give them a gift allowance. If your kids are 10 or older, you may want to give them some money to buy gifts for their siblings, parents and grandparents. It doesn’t have to be a large amount and you definitely want to promote “do it yourself” gifts over purchased ones. But having a small budget teaches kids to be responsible for their money.
There are many other small and big ways to promote responsibility over the holidays: from putting children in charge of wrapping gifts, to baking goodies for their teachers and grandparents, to setting the table, serving food and cleaning up after holiday parties. The possibilities are endless, and this spirit of giving can continue throughout the year.
What are you doing to help develop your children’s sense of responsibility?