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By: Luh Putu Yeni Aristianti

Being responsible is a key to children’s success both in school and in the larger world when they grow up. Studies show that people who take responsibility in any given situation are people who see themselves as willing to be different and stand out. We need to familiarize the children with various responsibilities in order for them to see these as something joyful instead of a burden. All children want to see themselves as response-able, meaning powerful and able to respond to what needs to be done. They need this for their self-esteem and for their lives to have meaning. They need, like the rest of us, to feel like they matter to the world; that their lives make a positive contribution.

Our goal isn't getting a specific job done, it's shaping a child who will take pleasure in contributing and taking responsibility. We can do this by making the job fun, giving as much structure, support, and hands-on help as we need to, including sitting with the children and helping for the first thirty times they do the task, if necessary. Let’s remind ourselves that there's joy in these tasks and communicate that, along with the satisfaction of a job well done. Eventually, they will be doing these tasks by themselves. That day will come much faster if they enjoy them. Below are FEW everyday strategies guaranteed to increase our children’s “response-ability” quotient.

  • Raise your child with the expectation that we always clean up our own messes.

Begin by helping our children until it becomes their habit. They'll learn it faster if we can be cheerful and good-hearted about it. Remember not to worry, for example, about spilt milk. When our children spill their milk, say "Oops, milk spilt. That's ok. We can clean it up," as we hand them paper towels and ask them to clean it up themselves.

  • Kids need an opportunity to contribute to the common good.

All children contribute to the rest of us in some way, regularly. Find those ways and comment on them, even if it is just noticing when they are kind to their little brother for example, or that you enjoy how they are always singing. Whatever behaviors you acknowledge will grow.

As our children get older, their contributions can increase appropriately, both within and outside the household. Children need to grow in two kinds of responsibilities: their own self care, and contributing to the family welfare. Research indicates that children who help around the house are also more likely to offer help in other situations than kids who simply participate in their own self care.

· Always let children "do it myself" and "help" even when it's more work for you.

It will always be more work for us. Toddlers want desperately to master their physical worlds, and when we support them to do that, they step into the responsibility of being "response-able." So instead of rushing through our list, reframe. We're working with our children to help them discover the satisfaction of contributing. That's more important than having the job done quickly or perfectly. Notice that we're also bonding, which motivates our children to keep contributing.

· Rather than simply giving orders, try asking your child to do the thinking.

For instance, to the dallying child in the morning, instead of barking "Brush your teeth! Is your backpack packed? Don't forget your lunch!" you could ask "What's the next thing you need to do to get ready for school?" The goal is to keep them focused on their list, morning after morning, until they internalize it and begin managing their own morning tasks.

· Provide routines and structure.

These are crucial in children’s lives for many reasons, not the least of which is that it gives them repeated opportunities to manage themselves through a series of not especially inviting tasks. First, they master the bedtime routine and cleaning up toys and getting ready in the morning. Then they develop successful study habits and grooming habits. Finally, they learn basic life skills through repetition of household routines like doing laundry or making simple meals.

· Teach our children to be responsible for their interactions with others by using repair instead of punishment.

For example, when your daughter hurts her little brother's feelings, don't force her to apologize. She won't mean it, and it won't help him. First, listen to her feelings to help her work out those tangled emotions that made her snarl at him. Then, once she feels better, ask her what she can do to make things better between them. Maybe she'll be ready to apologize. But maybe that will feel like losing face, and she would rather repair things with him by reading him a story, or helping him with his chore of setting the table, or giving him a big hug. This teaches children that their treatment of others has a cost, and that they're always responsible for repairs when they do damage. But because you aren't forcing, she's able to CHOOSE to make the repair, which makes it feel good, and makes her more likely to repeat it.

What if your child resists repair? That comes from resentment, or what we might call "a chip on the shoulder." Your child feels like the one who has been hurt or offended and thus won't start the repair process because she feels like her actions were warranted -- if not by what happened in this incident, then certainly by past grievances. That's a bigger healing project that you'll need to be involved in, so start today by building trust, listening to our children’s upsets, and acknowledging those old feelings. This shows our children child that we care, that they aren't alone, and that they can feel those old emotions and move past them. But at the same time that you're supporting your child to heal their past unhappiness, insist that they repair current interactions.

· Never label our children as "irresponsible".

Never label our children as "irresponsible" because the way we see our children are always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, teach them the skills they need to be responsible. If they always lose things, for instance, teach them to stop anytime they leave somewhere – their friend's house, school, soccer practice -- and count off everything they need to take home.

· Teach our children to make a written schedule.

It may seem like overkill, but in our busy 21st century lives, all children need to master this skill by high school, or they simply won’t get everything done. Begin on weekends during middle school, or earlier, if their schedule is busy. Just take a piece of paper, list the hours of the day on the left, and ask our children what they need to get done this weekend. Put in the baseball game, piano practice, the birthday party, and all the steps of the science project – shop for materials, build the volcano, write and print out the description. Be sure to block out downtime -- go for ice cream with dad, chill and listen to music. Most children find this keeps their stress level down, since they know when everything will get done. Most importantly, it teaches them to manage their time and be responsible about their commitments.

· Create a No-Blame Household.

We all, automatically, want to blame someone when things go wrong. It's as if fixing blame might prevent a recurrence of the problem, or absolve us of responsibility. In reality, blaming makes everyone defensive, more inclined to watch their back, and to attack, rather than to make amends. It's the #1 reason children lie to their parents. Worse yet, when we blame them, children find all kinds of reasons it wasn't really their fault -- at least in their own minds -- so they're less likely to take responsibility and the problem is more likely to repeat.

Blame is the opposite of unconditional love. So why do we do it? To help us feel less out of control, and because we can't bear the suspicion that we also had some role, however small, in creating the situation. Next time you find yourself automatically beginning to blame someone, stop. Instead, accept any responsibility you can; it’s good practice to overstate your responsibility – without beating yourself up. (You're modeling, remember?) Then, just accept the situation. You can always come up with better solutions from a state of acceptance than a state of blame.

Let us hand in hand raise our children to develop their personal responsibility. They will have a better chance of avoiding many uncertain situations and pitfalls in life, having the power to contribute positively, and making them better able to deal with inevitable challenges in life as they get older.


Tim Penyusun. 2016. Mengembangkan Tanggung Jawab Pada Anak. Jakarta: Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. cara-mengajarkan-tanggung-jawabpada-anak


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