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Trying to explain responsibility to kids? Try this simplified definition of responsibility written in terms and with examples that kids will understand.


What is responsibility?

We have a few different ways that we talk about responsibility. There’s being responsible, taking responsibility, acting responsibly, and having responsibilities. They are all related to doing the things we are supposed to do, and accepting the positive or negative outcome of our actions. A quick definition for responsibility is:

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Being responsible means you do the things you are expected to do and accept the consequences (results) of your actions.

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But let’s break that down into some more pieces:


What is “a responsibility”?

A responsibility is something you are expected to do.

A responsibility might be a task you are expected to do. For example, your parents expect you to brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth is “a responsibility” and it is your responsibility to brush your teeth every day. Another task example is that your teacher expects you to finish your homework on time and to do your best job. So it’s your responsibility to do your homework.

A responsibility might be a way you are expected to act. For example, your parents expect that if you go to play at the park, you will play in a way that won’t seriously hurt yourself or someone else. It’s your responsibility to have fun in a safe and courteous way.


What is “a consequence”?

A consequence is the result or outcome of our actions. Consequences can be positive (good) or negative (not good). For example, if you are supposed to do your chores by Sunday at 5:00 and you get them done, the consequence of your actions is that you get paid and your parents are happy with you. In another example, if you leave your bike behind your dad’s car and he doesn’t see it and runs over it, the consequence of your action is that your bike is ruined.

Why is being responsible important?

When we act responsibly, or do the things we are responsible for doing, we have a positive consequence. A consequence is what happens as a result of our actions. When you are responsible, you have a positive outcome and you get the positive consequence for a job well done. If you are irresponsible, you feel the pain of a negative consequence for a job done poorly or not at all.

Being responsible leads to more trust and freedom because people know they can count on you to do the things you are expected to do. Being responsible can also be a big part of keeping you safe.


Examples of responsibility and consequences:

Responsibility Example 1: Feeding the Dog

Responsibility: Each morning you are expected to feed the dog.
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Consequence if you are responsible: First, the dog has a full belly and is healthy. Second, your parents know they can trust you to do what you say you will do and will be more likely to give you space and freedom to manage your own time.

Consequence if you are irresponsible (not responsible): First, the dog is hungry and long-term you could harm the dog’s health. Second, your parents are disappointed and feel they have to check up on you and control your behavior more.

Responsibility Example 2: Being home on time

Responsibility: You meet your friends at the park to play and are expected to be home by 5:30.

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Consequence if you are irresponsible: You lose track of time and don’t get home until 6:00. Your mom has had 30 minutes to worry about where you are and now she’s upset. She says next time you can only go to the park if your big brother can go with you and supervise. You lost freedom and independence.

Example 3: Using the Internet safely

Responsibility: Taking care of your personal safety. Each of us is responsible for our own personal safety, which means we are expected not to do things that put ourselves in danger. Because of this, teachers and parents expect kids to use the Internet responsibly. They teach kids how to only view sites that are safe and they expect kids to avoid sites where they might find content that isn’t appropriate or healthy for young people. Being responsible in how we use the Internet, means we do as teachers and parents instruct and only go to the sites we know are safe.

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Consequence if you are responsible: You see content that is safe and don’t interact with people who might want to do you harm. Your parents and teachers can trust you to use the computer by yourself.

Consequence if you are irresponsible: You may see things that aren’t healthy for a young person to see, or you might interact with people who want to hurt you. Your parents and teachers take away your freedom on the Internet and you must ask for permission and only use the computer when you have an adult watching you.

More definitions of good traits


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