Monday, November 16, 2009

The Three Rs of Raising Kids

Most of our children's days are spent learning the three Rs of school: Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic. However, there are three other Rs that are equally important for children to learn and usually aren't emphasized enough: Reliability, Responsibility and Resourcefulness.

Reliability and Responsibility sound very much alike, but there are subtle and marked differences in what they mean in teaching children.


To be reliable, children need to know we depend on them. When they are asked to do something, they do it and in a timely manner. Consistency plays a heavy part in this. They learn to say what they mean and mean what they say.

Teaching children to be reliable can be as simple as giving them a task and walking away. No micromanaging! This is the hardest part.

Ask your child to do the task every day.

Reliability tasks are different from responsibility tasks because they involve the whole family. These are tasks that are necessary for things to function as a whole.

My 8 year old, every Monday has the task of taking the garbage down to the corner. I can depend on him to do this. He does it (or should!) without being told or without asking. If he doesn't take the garbage down, it gets stinky and he has to deal with the consequences (hosing it out when it does get emptied!)

Other examples of reliability tasks:
setting the table
emptying and loading the dishwasher
cleaning the living room


Responsibility in our home, revolves more around personal accountability. Responsibility means taking care of yourself and your things.

The children are responsible for their homework and making sure it is done. They are responsible for handing me any papers that need signing the night before. I refuse to sign any papers as we are heading out the door.

Failure to be responsible means falling short on things that impact yourself.

You are responsible to yourself. No one else is responsible for you. This includes your actions! Far too often, children engage in the blame game. I'm sure every parent of more than one child knows the blame game. So and so did such and such and one child retaliates and it goes down hill from there. Each person chooses how to react and is responsible for their feelings.

Responsibility tasks include:
Accepting accountability for feelings
Taking care of personal belongings
Personal hygiene/grooming


This is probably the most fun aspect of parenting. I enjoy teaching my children to be resourceful. It means thinking for themselves and finding creative ways to solve problems. The most important questions you can ask your child when teaching resourcefulness is "What do you think?" and "What have you tried?"

Children who are resourceful can turn a cardboard box into a robot, a castle or a stage. Resourceful children are not limited by what they see on television or what the box says. They can be short 50 cards in a deck of uno cards and still figure out how to play a fun game!

Problem solving skills go hand in hand with being resourceful. Duct tape can fix anything. A screwdriver opens up not only locked things but an entire world in figuring out how things work! Give a resourceful child a problem and he or she will find you multiple solutions. They may not always work, but trial and error is an important component of teaching resourcefulness.

A resourceful child will also use resources wisely. And, if she runs out, she will find another way to make it work.

Resourceful tasks take a bit more creativity and more communication. Set problems out for your children and let them figure it out. When we went on vacation this summer, we had a limited number of disposable cameras. The children worked out a plan themselves for dealing with it. The girls swapped cameras every other picture. The boys chose to each take 12 pictures in a row.

My most resourceful child is probably Alex. He is constantly building and creating things. When he runs out of something, he finds a work around. On the downside, he is also my child most likely to try to talk someone else in to doing his work for him!

Teaching these skills to your children can start as soon as they are walking. Start with small tasks of responsibility. Let your toddler pick out her own clothes. It's ok if she doesn't match. She did it herself. Talk to your child about her feelings and let her know they are hers and it's ok to be mad sometimes and verbalize better ways of expressing anger besides throwing the glass of milk on the floor.

As the children get older, add more tasks. The goal being that if all the adults in the house are sick, the house will still function! I have been so impressed with how my children have come together when both D and I have been sick: dinner on the table, dishes done, homework done, etc. It's those days that I realize maybe I'm doing something right after all!


  1. Excellent post!
    Best line:
    "Duct tape can fix anything."
    true of anything in life!!! :)
    thanks for stopping over at Pajamas and Coffee- hope you'll be back soon!

  2. Where were you when my boys were little? At 13 and 15, each has his own issues. Very good information!

  3. Good post on the three Rs! I like the Family Virtues Guide by Linda Popov. It is great to get kids learning about good values early!

    Naomi from


Thanks and have a great day!