Getting Kids to take Initiative

Working together at elementary school.

Kids and Initiative

I often hear teachers lament that the students today have little intrinsic motivation and initiative. Certainly as a school counselor, I  often presented lessons on being responsible. When asked what it means to be responsible, children usually have a good idea.  When asked what responsibilities they have, I would get a variety of answers; everything from I don’t have any chores to I have to clean my room and do my homework.

Developing a Responsible Attitude=Adult Success 

While children may complain about the responsibilities they have, it is a rare adult who doesn’t attribute their success to being held to a high standard as a child.  Darren Hardy in his book, The Compound Effect writes of his strict, single parent upbringing by his dad, a high school football coach, who held Darren responsible and accountable for chores, school work and personal choices.  Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, often refers to his strict Mennonite farm upbringing where he rose early to milk the cows before attending school. Both believe that their motivation and  success is due at least in part to the habits and attitudes they developed as children.

Here’s a great little video for kids by kids on taking initiative:

Eight tips for encouraging responsible self-reliant children:

Being responsible is part of the teamwork involved in community.  Parents and educators who can convey responsibilities as jobs that everyone does to create the whole fabric of a working, caring community model will gain the best cooperation.  Here are some tips for developing responsible children:

  • Be clear on expectations and results expected.  Clean your room may mean put everything in it’s place to a parent and shove everything in the closet to a child.  Allow for age and ability differences, but be clear in what you expect.
  • Determine a time frame.  Is this a daily chore or a once a week chore?  Does it need to be completed by a certain time?
  • Don’t present the chore as a choice when it really isn’t one.  Many times parents will say, “Will you pick up your toys for me?”  which implies that one answer could be, “No thanks, I’d rather play.”  A better communication is a statement, “It’s time to pick up your toys before dinner.”
  • Provide plenty of praise and encouragement but don’t get stuck in a reward mode for every behavior.  A reward such as paying for a chore should be given for extra jobs taken on not for the routine ones.
  • Be consistent and create routine habits. Chores done on a haphazard schedule give the impression that you don’t care and ultimately the system will fall apart.
  • Allow for mistakes.  Encourage students to be a problem solver when things don’t go as planned and figure out how to fix the problem.  This is better than taking over and doing the task for them.
  • Set a responsible role model yourself.  It doesn’t hurt to point out that as the parent or educator, you have your responsibilities as well and that you will be completing them while he does his part.
  • Create a sense of play and fun.  Not all work has to be boring drudgery.  Have a race to see who can clean the fastest.  Put on some music and dance while learning a new skill.  There are plenty of ways to make work a great time of interaction and engagement as a family or classroom.

Leave a Comment