What happened to the 4th R – Responsibility? Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic are the basics along with STEM, STEAM and now STREAM. All important! Yet, responsibility can’t be overlooked. School-agers are ready to take on a few chores or jobs so they can learn this life-long important skill in a safe space. Responsibility needs to be learned gradually, otherwise it might not stick. If they are not responsible for themselves until they leave the house, life can become overwhelming and difficult to cope with. How will they face drastic everyday changes such as college or adulthood without some sense of responsibility? It is much harder to teach at a later age so we recommend teaching the 4th “R” at school age.
At first, school-agers must manage their own sphere of school tasks: homework, test prep. Then, as they adjust to these responsibilities, add additional responsibilities geared to your child’s age and interests. If your child is interested in food prep, have them pack their own lunch. If your child is all about animals, make them responsible for feeding their pet. Do you have a child who likes things to be in order? Perfect! They can make their bed or be responsible for straightening up the family room. Each year, add more responsibilities. Wash or put away their clothes. Vacuum. Dust. Make breakfast. The important thing to remember is learning responsibility is about accomplishing a task and being open to letting your child accomplish it in their own way.
There are many thoughts on whether these actions should be paid. Personally, I believe they shouldn’t. Children need to learn that not everything has a tangible reward. They do need to learn follow-through, consistency and responsibility to understand what “help” means.
For my family, an allowance was given in recognition that money was needed for my daughter to learn to manage money and save for things she wanted. I’m glad I didn’t tie it to chores because I didn’t want to have to keep track or argue about whether or not it got done. No job charts on our walls. Without the overbearing threat of losing money, her responsibilities were never viewed as work or punishment (as in not getting an allowance). As a family, it was just what had to be done to enjoy our home and have time together.