Teaching Responsibility Before Age Two

Posted on Jan 29 2013 - 1:00am by Markell

I believe that when kids do things that are hard for them, they end up feeling proud of themselves. I have seen so many parents do things for their kids that, with a little encouragement, the kids could have done themselves. We tell our kids they can do anything they want to do and be anything they want to be. But, as soon as it looks like they are struggling, we step in and help. What kind of message does that send our kids?

My not quite two year old and I have moments like this all the time. Something happens that he things may be difficult to fix. He whines to me to fix it. Often, I do, because it is easier for me to do it than him. But I want to raise empowered kids. I want to raise problem-solvers. I want my kids to really be able to do anything. So as much as I can, I encourage him to “figure it out.”

One simple example of this is when he drops something under the table. It would be much easier for me to grab it for him. But that usually leads to him dropping it again so that I will pick it up again. However, if I tell him to “get it,” the situation is much different. He might whine at me for a minute, but then he grits up, climbs off his chair, moves it out of the way, and crawls under the table to get whatever precious thing he dropped. And when he comes out from under the table, he has a huge grin on his face because at that moment, he knows he can do hard things.

Because I have two kids so close together, I expect a lot out of my son. He is only 12 months older than his sister, but he has been an amazing help to me lately. Anyone with kids knows that at this age, they love to be helpful. What many people don’t realize however, is how much they are capable of and just how helpful they can be.

I have to note that I do feel like some of the things I have him do would be much quicker and easier if I just did them. In those areas, he is not necessarily helpful, but he gaining a foundation for learning responsibility.


Here are some things that he can do:

  • fetch diapers and wipes for himself and the baby
  • put his clothes in a hamper¬†
  • pick up his toys/shoes/etc
  • wash surfaces with a spray bottle and a rag (windows too, but only the bottle foot or so, and I usually have to redo them later)
  • put clothes in their drawers (no they don’t stay folded, but we’ll work on that later)
  • help load/unload the dish washer
  • help load/unload the washing machine and dryer
  • help pull weeds
  • throw things in the trash can
  • carry in groceries (I usually just give him one thing, not a whole sack, unless it’s light.)
  • help bake (he loves to dump the measured ingredients into the bowl)
My mother in law once gave me what I think may be the best parenting advice I’ve ever received. She told me to never underestimate my kids. I have thought about that over and over again. As I watch my son, I see his amazing potential. I want to do everything I can as a parent to help he realize all of the hopes and dreams that he will one day have. I hope that he knows he really can do anything he puts his mind to as long as he is willing to do hard things.¬†
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