Teaching Children to Take Responsibility for their Possessions

Teaching Children to Take Responsibility for their Possessions

Though it’s developmentally normal for children to lose their belongings, as a parent, you may be tired of almost constantly replacing or hunting down lost items. It’s never too late to start teaching your child to actively take responsibility for their possessions – and it may save you a lot of money and time down the road.

If you are considering giving your child a brand-new tablet or their first smartphone, you may be wary of trusting them with such a big (and expensive!) responsibility. In this article, we will discuss the reasons children are so prone to losing their things, how you can mitigate it, and how to instill responsible habits that your child will carry with them their whole life.

Why Children Lose Things

Children lose things for a variety of reasons, and it’s important to understand the root causes to help address the problem.

One common reason is the simplest: forgetfulness. Children have a lot on their minds, and it can be challenging for them to remember everything they need to keep track of. This forgetfulness can be compounded by a lack of organizational skills, which can make it difficult for them to keep track of their belongings.

Distraction is also a common culprit when it comes to lost items. This is one you can probably relate to as a parent – how many times have you set down your phone while distracted with another task, only to completely forget where you’d put it?

If your child is neurodivergent in any way, they may struggle with keeping track of their possessions as well. Children with ADHD are especially prone to forgetfulness and distraction – talk with your child’s pediatrician to find the best ways to instill responsibility. .

Teaching Children Responsibility

Responsibility is a skill that needs to be taught like any other. Effectively teaching your children to be responsible may seem like an uphill battle, but a few tried-and-true techniques will make it easy.

One of the most effective methods of teaching responsibility is modeling. When you model responsibility by taking care of your own belongings, fulfilling your commitments, and taking ownership of your mistakes, you implicitly teach your children how to be responsible and dependable.

Children learn by observation, and seeing you act responsibly inspires them to do the same.

Another effective method is introducing gradual, low-stakes responsibilities. Assigning tasks such as cleaning up their toys, making their beds, or helping with household chores can help children build good habits and learn the value of their contributions. Give lots of positive reinforcement to make sure the good behavior continues!

Determining Age-Appropriate Responsibilities

Determining age-appropriate responsibilities is a crucial aspect of teaching children responsibility. You want to set your child up for success, not give them an unrealistic challenge.

When it comes to introducing new technology, such as a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, it’s important to consider your child’s maturity level rather than just their age. Some children may be ready for the responsibility of owning and using devices at a younger age, while others may not be ready until they are older.

Before giving your child a new device, ensure that they understand the value and importance of the device, as well as the rules for using it. This includes when it can be used, how long it can be used for, what apps and websites are allowed, and what parental controls are in place. You want to give them clear and explicit expectations for using the device; this makes it easier to enforce boundaries later on.

Some children may not be ready for certain responsibilities, even if they are the appropriate age for them. It’s important for parents to recognize their child’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, a child who struggles with organization may not be ready for the responsibility of owning a small, easy-to-lose smartphone; however, they may do well with a tablet or laptop that stays in one spot all day.

What to Do When Something Breaks

No matter how responsible a child is, accidents happen, and things can break. It’s essential to have a plan in place for what to do when something breaks, whether it’s a toy, a piece of technology, or something else.

One option is to try to fix the item. Parents can teach their children the value of taking care of their belongings by involving them in the repair process and showing them how to fix things when possible.

Another option is to replace the item, either with a new one or a refurbished one. Refurbished technology, in particular, can be a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option for parents on a budget. Make sure you discuss with your children the financial implications of replacing broken items and involve them in the decision-making process after an item has been broken.

If the item broke due to carelessness or neglect, though, use it as a teachable moment. Your child may have to go without a tablet or smartphone for a few weeks while they earn back the item’s value through chores.


Remember that every child is different and may require different approaches to learning responsibility. Adjust your approach based on what works best for your child, and always work to set them up for success.

It can be frustrating when children repeatedly lose or misplace their belongings, but it’s important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding. By modeling responsibility, determining age-appropriate responsibilities, and setting children up for success, parents can help their children become more responsible and appreciate the value of their possessions.

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