Most parents want the best for their children. However, parenting does not usually come with a training manual, and most of us raise our kids according to what we think works best. We strive to give our kids what we believe was lacking in our own upbringing, and in many cases this means making sure that our kids have all that they want. But does this mean that they have all that they NEED?

Pandering to all of a child’s wishes unfortunately often has the effect of encouraging children to believe that everything should be theirs by right, without any regard to the responsibilities associated with rights. We therefore end up doing our children a disservice, by not preparing them for the responsibilities and commitment expected in the adult world. Children can be taught responsibility from an early age, and in many cases this means doing less, rather than more.

A number of respected authors, including Dr Larry Waldman, who has been a licensed child and family therapist for almost 40 years, provide tips for raising responsible children. These inched the following:

  • Assign age-appropriate tasks to your children. Children of all ages can be given specific tasks to help around the house. While teaching them responsibility, this will also mean that you have more time to dedicate to other things which you value.
  • Assign chores on a weekly basis, list them on calendars and put them in a prominent place for all the family to see. Having a weekly chore chart stuck somewhere prominent, such as on the fridge, ensures that all family members are aware that everyone in the family has responsibilities and encourages them to see chores as a team task.
  • ●       Be judicious in your use of praise and rewards. Do you get a free ice-cream each time you wash the plates? Not really, so use the same principles with your children. Praise them when they do a job well, and use rewards judiciously. This also reduces the time you need to plan and acquire rewards.
  • Reinforce independent, responsible behaviour and change undesired behaviours by reinforcing alternative, desired behaviours. The more you reinforce independent and responsible behaviour, the more you prepare your children for adulthood. And the more responsible and independent your children are, the less you have to do since they learn to do things themselves.

Clearly, parents also need to be patient and allow their children to make mistakes and learn from them – this is part of the process. However, giving kids responsibilities is really a win-win situation – it will help them function better as adults, while leaving you with more time to dedicate to the things you value.

Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on or call us on 79291817.