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Childhood responsibilities

Children at work
Children at work
Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

At times, parents/caregivers often ask: “When is it age appropriate to give a child responsibilities? And should parents/caregivers give a child responsibilities? What good are responsibilities for a child?”

A child may and should be given responsibilities no later than their second year of life. As soon as a child has gained enough large muscle coordination or the ability to walk and handle items without dropping them or causing injury to the child is the best time. Parents/caregivers are encouraged to give their child responsibilities as home related tasks as they help to: 1) integrate a child into the family; 2) teaches them how to work with others; and 3) teaches them skills they may use later in life in their home and when they to work.

In general, parents/caregivers often discover their child wants to help their parent around the house or apartment. The key is to give a child simple responsibilities. These may include: putting their toys away in a designated place (like a toy box) or on the shelf where they belong; picking up their clothes from the floor then placing them on their bed, in a hamper, laundry room; or carrying their eating utensils and plates/bowls to the kitchen even helping the parent/caregiver put them in the dishwasher or sink, if they are able. As the child does her/his responsibilities, give her/him verbal praise for their effort no matter how small.

Each year, as a child grows and develops, parents/caregivers are encouraged to increase their responsibilities. Increased responsibilities will challenge them. How rapidly and how many responsibilities depends upon the individual child. The important thing is to get the child use to responsibilities early in their young life. Then the child will not be overwhelmed when the time comes assume responsibilities.

As to what responsibilities are right for a child, the best way parents/caregivers may help themselves is to observe their child’s behavior. The child may become upset by what he/she may do. A great indicator is when a child’s task or tasks are performed poorly, with a great deal of effort or when the child puts it or them of with an excuse: “I can’t do it/them”. In these instances, the task or tasks are too great or difficult her/him. It will not hurt to change it/them. But if he/she is able to handle them easily and without resistance, the parents/caregiver will know they are suitable and may be able to take on new, important family responsibilities without any problems.