My 5-year-old is a pro at helping me move laundry baskets. He takes the job of pushing an overflowing basket down the hallway from my bedroom and into the garage (where our washer and dryer are) so seriously that if he sees me even attempting to
do this chore myself, he stops me in my tracks. This responsibility was born out of necessity when I was having a chronic pain flare-up, but now he has a total grip on the task and there's no going back.
Responsibilities that make a child feel special can come in all shapes and sizes. For my son, knowing that he helped me when I was in pain made him feel special and needed, so now when he performs this chore, he gets the same gratification from it every time.
This idea is backed by science, too.
Sarah Hornack, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Children’s National Health System, explains why assigning responsibilities to your children can help them feel special. "Taking on new or helpful tasks presents an opportunity for praise and helps children to feel appreciated as they contribute to the household," she tells Romper. "Additionally, learning new chores and being given responsibility builds greater self-efficacy as children get older. This feeling of competence has been linked to other positive outcomes in childhood and adolescence, like academic achievement and the ability to cope with stressors."
Take some inspiration from these 12 responsibilities that make a child feel special if you are looking for ways to give your
kid a confidence boost. 1 Caring For Pets
Feeding Fido or scooping out the litter box are simple tasks that
teach kids how to care for a living being other than themselves. Although pet care can be messy sometimes, it is a responsibility that parents can assign their kids to show trust. "Even taking out the trash, combing the dog's fur, and cleaning the hamster cage can be signs of special responsibility given to a child," says Maureen Healy, author of and parenting coach at The Emotionally Healthy Child growinghappykids.com . "When we don't let children take responsibility and complete tasks, we inadvertently rob them of the direct experience of seeing themselves as capable and able to complete whatever they put their mind to." 2 Cleaning Up Their Messes
"It is important for parents to consider development and the age of the child when assigning responsibilities
; for instance, toddlers can assist with cleaning up their messes or picking up toys," Hornack says. It may seem like a no-brainer to ask your child to pick up after themselves, but doing so can facilitate a sense of responsibility for their own actions and their own things that makes a child feel special and mature. 3 Cooking A Meal
When it comes to children’s responsibilities, there’s nothing more memorable or delicious than asking for a
helping hand in the kitchen from your kiddo. "Every child is different, but every child wants to feel seen and celebrated," Healy says. "If your son loves to cook, perhaps you can give him the task (with your help, as needed) to pick a special recipe for Friday dinner or dessert. He can be in charge of this menu, and you can make this dinner together with him as the head chef." 4 Helping With Organization
"Perhaps your daughter loves to organize. Ask if she can organize the pantry for you," Healy says. "The goal is to match your child with her unique talents and abilities so [she] can become responsible for contributing to the household." When you play to a child's natural strengths or interests, you're showing them that you care about their abilities and value their involvement, which can make them feel important.
5 Taking Out The Trash
This simple task shows that you trust your child to take responsibility to leave the house (unattended or with you) and walk the trash to the curb or dumpster. Healy does caution parents to be sure to look for clues that certain tasks aren't helping your child feel valued. "Young children can do simple tasks, but you never want to force them to do something," she says. "For example, if your son's responsibility is to take the trash out, but he's scared because the sun is setting, I would do it for him and say, 'You can do it tomorrow when it's light out.'"
6 Tending A Garden
benefits of gardening are well-documented, so it makes perfect sense to allow your children the responsibility of planting a garden. Gardening also helps give kids the opportunity to get outside and play in the dirt, which can be a helpful part of balancing their responsibilities with the need for play.
"Parents should monitor their children’s schedules and be thoughtful about ensuring that there is play time during the day," Hornack says. "Just as work-life balance is crucial for parents to work toward, it is important to recognize the time demands children face, like school, homework, extracurricular activities, and chores."
7 Caring For Younger Siblings
"Naturally we can’t expect a 5-year-old to have the same kinds of capabilities and hence take on the same responsibilities as a 16-year-old sibling," says Dr. Gene Beresin, M.D., executive director of
The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachussetts General Hospital. So, while both younger and older kids can handle some responsibilities when it comes to caring for younger siblings, the tasks themselves may vary.
Beresin tells Romper that preschool-aged kids may feel special if they are able to "help feed a younger toddler or give them a toy in the high chair if they are getting fussy," while teenagers may be able to be trusted with babysitting a younger sibling.
8 Cleaning The Car
Children’s responsibilities will grow as your kids grow, and they may become more inclined to complete tasks that feel more like something a grown-up would do. "Teenagers can take on more complex tasks like laundry or cleaning the family car," Hornack says. The closer a child gets to the magical age of 16 where they're inevitably going to ask to borrow your car, the more inclined they will probably be to help clean it.
Additionally, Beresin says that teenagers may feel special when allowed to use the car to perform tasks for the family. "When they have their license, [they can] pick siblings up from school, sports, or run errands for parents," he says.
9 Helping With Special Occasions
Shopping for birthday gifts or Father's Day cards can be a ton of fun, and Beresin says that allowing kids to take the lead during these activities can help them feel loved. "Kids feel special when they are given a unique age-appropriate responsibility for a special occasion, such as a birthday, wedding, or holiday," he says.
Additionally, children can be given responsibilities on the day of said special occasion. "
Making decorations for Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day, or putting the candles in a family member’s birthday cake, are special things they can do,” Beresin says. “They may help clean up the house before guests are coming for a special occasion.” 10 Participating In Extracurricular Activities
While this may not sound like a responsibility right off the bat, it does take a certain amount of accountability and balancing of responsibilities for kids to be able to
participate in extracurricular activities. "When a child takes on a responsibility to learn a musical instrument, play on a sports team, or assume a responsibility in a community group such as the Boys or Girls Club or in a religious or spiritual community, they realize they are acquiring new skills and are acknowledged by others as a vital part of a team, or a community, [and] their sense of being special is enhanced," says Beresin. 11 Composting Food Scraps
Not only is this a good practice for the environment, but it also makes for an excellent addition to your children’s responsibilities. “As children are increasingly aware of climate change, research shows that educating and engaging them in proactive environmental initiatives and activities can be beneficial for them,”
Renee Cachia, Ph.D., holistic child, adolescent, and parenting psychologist and author of , tells Romper. “Rather than feeling helpless, they can gain a sense of pride and self-efficacy through taking actions towards creating a more sustainable environment.” Composting is also a great grounding exercise and helps the child feel connected to nature, according to Cachia. Parenting Freedom 12 Becoming The Gratitude Leader
Gratitude is extremely powerful for the psychological health of all humans — no matter the age — and is a great tool for the whole family, explains Cachia. “There is a myriad of research suggesting that taking a few moments to verbalize or write down one to three things children — as well as teens and adults — are grateful for each day can have a profound impact on their mental health and optimism,” Cachia tells Romper. She recommends having your child take on the responsibility of being the leader of the family gratitude practice. They can be in charge of putting everyone’s gratitude notes in a jar or even prompting a gratitude circle during family time.
Whether it’s as simple as pushing your laundry basket down a hall or as hands-on as cleaning the car, giving your child a sense of responsibility will instill a bout of pride and confidence. Plus, the extra help is always appreciated.
Experts: Sarah Hornack, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Children’s National Health System Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child and parenting coach at Growinghappykids.com Dr. Gene Beresin, M.D., executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds Renee Cachia, Ph.D., holistic child, adolescent, and parenting psychologist and author of Parenting Freedom
This article was originally published on
June 19, 2019