Character Counts: Responsibility

June 1, 2021 | Wisdom Wonder Project

Responsibility? Aren’t we done with that for this school year? Focusing on this character trait right at the start of summer break may seem oxymoronic—isn’t this the time of year we all let go a little? But, bear with me for a moment. While the end of school and longer days of sunshine lead us to relax routines and certain responsibilities (especially this year, yeesh!), this time of year also invites kids to explore their implicit sense of responsibility when freed from imposed responsibilities. They don’t have to do it, they can choose to do it. Stay with me; this will come together. Let’s start with Wisdom Wonder Project’s definition of responsibility:

When children learn that they are first and foremost responsible for themselves, it is powerful! Not only does it deepen their sense of self, it builds confidence and makes them valuable and dependable friends, family members, and community members. Responsibility is the balance between autonomy and interconnectedness—it expands our ability to take care of ourselves as well as others. Our catch phrase sums it up nicely…

That leads to many large questions. How can we talk about responsibility with our kids in a way that isn’t burdensome? Can we demonstrate it by taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions even when the outcome isn’t favorable? How does responsibility help us reach our goals? What if teaching responsibility is less about the should and shouldn’t and more about learning to think before you act, finish what you begin, and take responsibility for yourself?

Is there a project or goal your child wants to accomplish this summer? How can they take responsibility for it in the planning, execution, and wrap up processes? (That might even let you have a little time to focus on your own project or goal!) When the trials happen, let them struggle and ask them solution-oriented questions that help them figure out how to proceed. If your child has been pining for a certain responsibility (mowing the lawn, starting a lemonade stand, or babysitting, a new pet, etc.), what steps can they take to demonstrate they are ready to take on a more challenging responsibility?

Our chosen quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up responsibility as a state of being:

A wonderful and simple way to begin this month of teaching and exploring responsibility with your child(ren) is to read books that tell stories of responsibility. Take a look at our responsibility book list for all ages in our post from last year! You can try reading Henry and the Paper Route with your child before they take on a new summer task or project. Taking responsibility for something is one of the few ways we get to have our cake and eat it, too, like in Little Red Hen (literally) or The Grasshopper and the Ants. Reading stories about responsibility gives children an example of how to act in difficult situations and helps them give action to their compassion—like in Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen or A Chair for my Mother.

Keep this character trait of the month as part of your daily discussion by printing and hanging our Responsibility poster! Click here to download.

The summer is waiting! What ways will you be teaching your children (and even yourself) to choose Responsibility this month? Share in the comments below!