Teaching responsibility should start when kids are toddlers. If done correctly, they grow up with the right idea that they are responsible for their actions, messes, behavior, all of it. When you miss that opportunity to teach them early, it creates so many problems later that you'll be kicking yourself. And listen, I'm not saying it's an easy thing to do. For example, it's usually easier for us to clean up after them and get it done quickly because we've got another screaming child that needs dealing with, and to heck if we have the time to sit down and walk our toddler through the process of putting away toys. But by not insisting that our child clean up, wash up, be accountable for their behavior, etc., we are teaching them that it is okay to act in a way that will not serve them well as they grow older.
I'm currently subbing in middle school doing my little speech therapy thing, and can we just talk about the lack of responsibility? Kids don't do their homework, they lie about attending tutoring, they have to have incentives galore just to complete assignments (do not get me started), and then when they don't complete them, oh, no big deal, Johnny . . . just get it to me tomorrow, okie doke sweetie pie?
Hello! Oh my gosh. Do we really think that the big, bad world is going to allow them all these chances? They grow up and have no idea how to deal in an environment that cares very much if you screw up. No second chances there. I've heard from managers who say you can't tell these people they did anything wrong, lest they break down into tears. Or they get kicked out of their frat house in college because they don't lift a darn finger to help clean the place up. How stupid and wasteful is that? Nothing to do with grades - it's all character!!
So believe me when I say, it matters. I know it's difficult to see that far ahead now, as you're just trying to make it through each day, but teaching responsibility is so important. It does take some time upfront, but it will make your life SO much easier in the long run, and it teaches your child how to be well-adjusted and happy.
Of course, as a toddler, it's no fun when mommy or daddy isn't your slave. You mean I can't just run amok and be jolly? Clean up after myself . . . what??! So herein lies our problem: just how do we make teaching responsibility fun? A bit of a pickle, as it's not necessarily a fun thing to learn that we aren't king of the castle. However, we can ease the transition and harsh reality by introducing a responsibility chart. We found a cute one that gives a visual cue and builds self esteem as kids go through the process of figuring out that a job well done is something to be proud of.
This one is magnetic. If you find it's working well, you can get creative and customize it by making your own little magnets to meet your specific needs. Just get some index cards, cut a strip to size, write your "chore", and glue to a small magnet. It can be that simple, or you can jazz it up and be as creative as you like. Just remember that the most important aspect to teaching anything is consistency (you've only heard me say this twelve billion times). So stick with it and you will see results!