How to help your child become more responsible?
As a child therapist who also works with parents I often hear exasperated parents complain about their child not taking any responsibility to do regular daily tasks, like homework, brushing teeth. They complain that they have to keep their child on track, keep reminding them tens of times, and it is as if the child could not care less. Their words do not make an impact.
Especially when the child is 6 or older, there is no point in keep reminding them of all those tasks. But the parents can say that from now on the child will be able to do thing on his or her own, because he or she can. And if the child has a hard time with something, then the child can ask for help. However, there is no point in controlling the child, watching its every move.
It could be that the parent has been very focused on helping the child, and doing things for the child, rather than encouraging the child to become independent.
So, when a child comes to the table with dirty hand, instead of getting upset you can simply point out that it is not the best idea, as the hands touch a lot of things. The parent can point out that he or she washes her hands first. Then the child can go wash them or not. But, it is best not to make a big deal of it.
In my practice I see a lot of children conflicted between wanting to get help, and wanting to do things on their own. What they really seem to want is to be supported in being able to do things on their own.
So, as a parent it is important to send the message that they do not have to brush their teeth, wash their hands to please the parent. They will do it when they see it as it is something that they will do for themselves as boys or girls who identify with their parents as role models, because they want to grow up to become adults like them. Just like in the last post: the child has to sense that he gets to do the things because he or she wants to, not because he has to please mom or dad.