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Helping Your Child Learn Responsibility

How can we help our children to grow into being the best they can be? The following information may give you some ideas.

Nashville, Ark. – Parents want their children to grow into healthy, responsible adults. How can we, as parents, help our children to grow into being the best they can be? It all begins in infancy and continues throughout the development years.

            As children grow, they seek increasing independence. They want to make their own choices and control their own world. As parents, we often find it difficult to let go of our children’s hands and allow them to explore and learn for themselves. We want to keep them safe, and we should within reason. No parent would intentionally put their child in danger, but we can help them learn by exploring the world around us. When we encourage our children to explore and make choices, we are supporting the development of their independence. Wise parents know how important it is for their children to make decisions.

  • Allow opportunities for your child to make choices. Begin with simple decisions,

such as choosing a book to read before bedtime, and over time provide more opportunities for more complex choices and decisions. When your child begins to express a desire to do certain things on their own (such as dressing themselves, filling their own plate, etc.), allow them to do these things. Help them out when they request your help or when they are obviously struggling with something. But give them a chance to make as many decisions for their own life as they are able to make.

  •  We can give our children opportunities to be responsible for household chores.

Having chores to do helps teach responsibility. Choose chores that are appropriate for your child. Begin with small tasks like putting away their toys. As they follow through with what you expect them to do, give them opportunities to take on more responsibilities. The age of the child is an important factor. You cannot expect a five-year-old to be responsible for the same things as his twelve-year-old sister. Match the chores to the maturity and interests of the child.

  • Model responsibility. Model the behavior you want to teach. Children learn from

what their parents do. Show your children that you are responsible through your decision-making and your daily tasks. If you tell someone you will do something, stick to it.

  • Let your child experience the consequences of his choices and actions. It is natural

to want to protect our children and fix it when things go wrong. Realize this may not be the best course of action. For example, if your child promises to clean his room before dinner, make sure his room is clean before he sits down to eat. If he did not follow through with his commitment, he should expect a logical consequence, perhaps not being able to eat dinner until his room is clean. Your child should be aware that consequences are tied to their behavior. When your child makes good choices, even in small things, notice and encourage him.

  • Give your child support. Let your child know that you are going to be there for them

when they need you. Even as adults we need some help to get us through our responsibilities. When a child knows they have the support of their parents, they are more willing to take on responsibilities and explore the world.

            You may already be doing a great job of helping to teach your child responsibility. That’s great, continue on! If you are undecided about whether you are teaching responsibility or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of opportunities am I giving my child to explore their independence? It should be a reasonably safe activity.
  • Does my child have responsibilities at home such as cleaning their room, setting the dinner table, taking out the trash, feeding the pets, etc. Is your child doing a good job with these responsibilities? If so, are you noticing them and making positive comments?
  • Do you model responsibility for your children?
  • Do you try to protect your child from consequences or do you allow them to experience an appropriate discomfort from mistakes?
  • Have you given your child support this past week in their efforts to become responsible and independent?

            For more information about parenting issues, check out our website at There is a lot of great information on parenting and family issues. Call the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 for more information.

Recipe of the Week

            Need a quick to fix tasty idea for dinner? This recipe is a family pleaser, especially for those meat and potato lovers. Add a green vegetable or salad for a complete meal.

Beef and Potatoes

¾ lb. ground beef

1 cup water

5-6 peeled, thinly sliced medium potatoes

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of Eating Smart Seasoning Mix (see below)

            Brown beef in a large skillet, drain the fat. Add water, potatoes, and seasoning mix. Stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Uncover and cook until excess water is evaporated. Add salt to taste. Yield: 7 (1 cup) servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories-210, Fat-9g, Sodium-75 mg, Carbohydrate-17g, Fiber-1g, Protein-16g

Eating Smart Seasoning Mix

1 ¼ teaspoons black pepper

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

2 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes

¾ cup dried, minced onions

2 cups instant dry milk

            Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2 ¾ cups seasoning mix.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.