Faith and Family — Teaching children responsibility at an early age eases transition into independence

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I would like to place the emphasis on the word “train.” Children do not come into the world knowing how to transition into adulthood. Our job as parents is to teach them. The key is to start training early.

‘Self-care and sufficiency’

Lindsey Hutton, in her article, “I Did it All by Myself! An Age-by-Age Guide to Teaching Your Child Life Skills,” writes, “Teaching your child life skills is not only important for self-care and sufficiency, it also allows him to feel empowered, works on socialization and reasoning and helps develop healthy self-esteem.”

Simple tasks such as putting their toys away or putting their clothes in a bin can be incorporated into children’s daily routines as early as age two. 

As they grow age appropriate skills should be introduced so that by the time children are ready to go to college or live on their own they know practical life skills such as:

  • Money management
  • What to do in case of an emergency
  • Cooking for themselves
  • Waking themselves up on time
  • Doing their own laundry
  • Filling their own car up with gas
  • Advocating for themselves
  • Grocery shopping
  • Making doctor’s appointments.

A parent’s job during the launching years remains the same as it has always been: to nurture qualities that support the development of a resilient, responsible, productive and socially and emotionally competent young person.

Psychologist Jim Taylor suggests three key words to keep in mind when thinking of launching a child into independence: responsibility, accountability and curiosity. 

1. Responsibility

This leads us to ask: What is my responsibility as a parent? What is my child’s responsibility? Parents are responsible for giving their children love and respect, showing confidence in their children’s capabilities, teaching them they have control over their lives and providing guidance with the freedom to make their own decisions. 

2. Accountability

In addition to teaching our children responsibility, holding them accountable is also key to having children successfully launch from the nest. It is hard to watch and to allow our children to fail. However, learning to fail is a necessary part of becoming a productive, healthy adult. 

3. Curiosity

Finally, in our attempt to raise independent adults we need to encourage our children to be curious and to explore. This may be hard for some. As parents we want to keep our children safe and provide security. We must slowly begin to let the “leash” out and allow our children try new things, fail and start again.

Failure to launch is sadly a true phenomenon that many families are trying desperately to navigate. If as parents we begin early to provide our children a safe and secure foundation, and then train them in the areas of responsibility, accountability and curiosity the transition won’t be so hard.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Faith & Family is a monthly look at important spiritual, cultural and relational issues facing today’s families. For more articles on contemporary topics like these, go to 

Kelly Arant is a mom of two grown children and a nationally certified licensed professional counselor serving in central and north Alabama with Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.