Boy making his sandwichesWhen you first started being a parent did you think that
this was an eighteen-year job? We’ve all heard of the
children who in their twenties and even thirties come
back to live with their parents. But what should we be
doing as parents that help our children learn to be
responsible and independent?

One of the things I did when my children were growing
up was to explain to them the ‘magical milestones of
childhood’. I explained the amazing truth: that the day
they started primary school they could magically wipe
their own bottoms properly and make their own lunch
boxes. (And it worked!) And the day they started
secondary school they were suddenly old enough to
manage all their own homework and assignments.

However sometimes I wonder if I do too much for my
children. I gave up work for eleven years to raise my four
children, and after that have only worked part-time to
enjoy them as much as I can.  But in the process I think I
lost sight of how mature and competent my children were
getting. Each of my teenage daughters has at one timedone all the cleaning and ironing for pocket money. But I

have always done all the washing, shopping and cooking
and frequently tidied up after them. A recent back
operation that required me to do nothing for six weeks
helped me realise that my teenagers were perfectly
capable of cooking family meals, washing and clearing
up. In the interests of helping them to be even more
responsible I think there may be a little more sharing of
the jobs around the house!

So what could you do to encourage responsibility in your


Toddlers and pre-school children can

  • Clear the table
  • Lay the table
  • Wipe surfaces
  • Put their toys away

Primary school children can:

  • Make their own lunch boxes
  • Tidy their own bedrooms
  • Dust, vacuum and wash up
  • Take out the rubbish
  • Wash a car and
  • Care for a pet or walk the dog

Secondary school children (boys as well as girls) canContinue all of the above (including tidying up after themselves!)

  • Clean kitchens and bathrooms
  • Iron clothes
  • Cook simple meals
  • Manage their own money (without a bail-out from the bank of Mum & Dad)
  • Wash windows and
  • Be responsible for all their own homework and assignments.

I am sure that some of you will be aghast at one or two
(or perhaps all) of these suggestions. But if we want our
children to be responsible we need to train them-that’s our
job as parents. If you have missed some magical
milestones maybe the new year, birthdays or new school
years could be the time to introduce some changes.
Alternatively agree changes with your partner if you have
one, then get the family together and talk about how you
want your sons and daughters to take a fair share of the
work. The earlier it starts the easier it is.

Of course, you will have realised the huge benefit to your
time of enlisting your children’s help. Maybe as a reward
you could use some of the extra time to do fun things
with the children. They may not be too pleased with the
changes but we will be doing everyone a favour if our
children know how to care for themselves well before we
send them off into the world.

By the way two of my children are now in secondary
school and still make their own lunch boxes, unlike
many of their school friends. And yes, they still moan occasionally!!!