Deciding when to give your children more responsibility can be tricky. As a parent, you have to balance ensuring the welfare of your children with teaching them the skills that they'll need for independence. You have to consider their safety, the law, and what they can handle. Here are some tips to help you decide when to give your children more responsibility …
When deciding whether to give your children more responsibility, you need to consider what is permitted under the law. For example, if the law says you can't leave a child under 12 alone, you may think that your 11-year-old can handle it perfectly well. But in the event of someone reporting you for leaving them alone, you could be in trouble.
Has your child shown that they can cope with the extra responsibility given to them? Children mature at different rates, so one of your kids may be able to handle certain responsibilities at a younger age than their sibling could. However, you also have to consider whether it's fair to give them different treatment in this way.
A good way to deal with your child wanting more responsibility is to phase it in via a process of several steps. For example, start by leaving them alone for a short period and gradually increasing the amount of time you leave them at home. This will accustom them to the added responsibility and ease your mind that they can cope with this, rather than throwing them in at the deep end.
Giving your children added responsibility is often safest when you can keep a watchful eye on them as they do so. For example, if they want a pet hamster, check that they are feeding and watering it regularly. If they don't look after it properly, you know that they are not ready for more responsibility (and the hamster won't starve!).
Another point to consider is whether there are any risks involved in giving them more responsibility - either to them or to property. Let's say your teen wants to be left at home while you go away for the weekend. The chances of a party being announced on Facebook and your house being trashed are pretty high. So the wisest thing would be to insist they come with you, or leave a responsible adult to ward off any party.
When it comes to younger children, are they able to follow instructions? If you leave them at home for a short time (not too young, obviously!), can they phone you in case of problems and follow instructions not to answer the door? If not, then they're not ready to be left alone, not even for five minutes while you pop to the neighbor's house.
Finally, if your child is asking for more responsibility then they are probably ready for it (as long as it's reasonable). They're showing a desire for independence and to develop their skills, and need to be encouraged.
Every child is different and so blanket rules that they can do things at certain ages may not be most appropriate. Treat them as an individual and let them work according to their level of maturity. Did you ever do anything really irresponsible as a teen?
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