As young adults, managing their time, staying on a budget, taking care of their living space, and making it to class – and work – on time and prepared, some “get it” yet, unfortunately, others don’t.

What is the difference? Why do some young adults seem to be able to handle the challenges life throws at them, while others struggle, strive, and sometimes fail?

Teaching Responsibility

The individuals who are successful have learned how to be responsible. They have learned that actions, and inaction, have consequences. If they do their work and study for school, they have a better chance at performing well on an examination. If they forget or neglect to go grocery shopping, they may not eat dinner unless they bum a meal from a friend.

Life is all about choices, and being responsible is one of the most important choices we learn to make early on.

How can we, as parents, teach our children to learn responsibility – knowing and doing what is expected? Here are three important things we can do to teach our children to be responsible.

Communicate. Kids will only know what is expected of them if you tell them. We don’t like it when someone, like our boss, expects us to be able to read minds. Clearly and succinctly communicate your expectations and help them understand timeliness by sharing when you expect certain tasks to be accomplished.

Start small and grow big. When your children are younger, give them age-appropriate responsibilities around the house. A friend of mine, who was the mother of a 3-year-old, gave her child the responsibility for collecting the nearly used-up soap chips in the bathrooms and throwing them away. Her daughter took a lot of pride in her “job” and it built the foundation for taking on more time-consuming and challenging tasks as she grew up. Now, as a middle schooler, this young lady not only does her own laundry, but sometimes the laundry for the entire family.

Celebrate. Those actions that receive your praise and recognition are more likely to be repeated. If your child does a good job cleaning his room, be sure to notice and express your appreciation. Be specific. Say something like “I really appreciate that you made your bed and cleaned your room before my friends came over. It made me proud to show my friends how responsible you are.”

Children who are taught to be responsible grow up to be young people who take responsibility for their own success. They learn that their actions are directly linked to outcomes; and if they work hard and do what is expected, they will do well in life.

For additional information on responsibility, shop the Character First Elementary Education Curriculum at