Tammy Helfrich

Life begins right where you are.

Your Definition of Responsible Kids

Credit: Creative Commons (Brad_Chaffee)

Credit: Creative Commons (Brad_Chaffee)


What is your definition of a responsible kid?

As a parent, this is something I am continually working to understand. I’ve been pretty responsible for most of my life. Would my mom say I was ALWAYS responsible? Definitely not. But, I have typically made pretty decent decisions.

I am continually learning how to teach this to my boys. Both of my boys are different when it comes to their own responsibility. I could never understand how it was possible that my brother and sister and I were so different until I had my boys. We are definitely ALL wired uniquely. It’s why I love to learn from other parents how they handle certain situations. It helps me grow as a parent, and I am thankful to have friends who have been on the parenting journey ahead of me and are willing to offer advice.

Last night, I posted a question on Facebook. My oldest is in 5th grade, and we are really working with him to take more responsibility when it comes to his homework and other areas. We are not the parents who sit down and do the homework for him. We never have been. But, we do spend a significant amount of time helping him in certain subjects. Last night, I wondered what other parents do in this area. And I’ll be honest, the answers fascinated me. Here’s what I asked:

Parents of 5th graders and up: when did you stop helping your kid with homework and putting the full responsibility on them to get it done? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here are a few of the answers:

V: I think it depends on the kid and their maturity/responsibility level. J has always been mature beyond his years and I’ve never had to ride him, ever. J2, on the other hand, is in 5th this year and although he knows he has to do it I still have to “micromanage” to make sure it truly gets done. Hope I’m not still doing this with him in high school! Lol! Best of luck!

L: Except for the occasional issue, it needs to happen before middle school because the teachers will no longer inform the parents on a daily basis.  If the child hasn’t internalized the homework discipline yet, it sets the relationship up  for question/lies.  Natural consequences need to be happening so the parent isn’t more emotionally invested than the child in his/her success.  Also, the point at which current education outruns parental knowledge gets earlier every year.  I just found with mine, that the more I was willing to remind/nag, the more it became my investment.  It wasn’t a good preparation for success in the outside world where no one would be more invested in their success than them.  You have to ease them into natural consequences vs. punishment (see Parenting with Love and Logic by Cline and Fay) and they’re sure to test the lines.  I speak from painful experience, not arrogant success

H: Depends on the children.  My 5th grader does everything independently.  If he needs help, he asks.  He has never gotten a B.  He does occasionally need a reading reminder.  My 6th grader needs supervision.  Everyday when she comes home, we write out a to-do list.  She needs constant redirection (although I must say everyday is getting better).  Now if she actually turns in the work on time is another story.

K: Second grade was the point when it fell on ours to do it and turn it in. He had to feel the pressure a couple times when he forgot, but it’s all about learning responsibility. It probably depends on the kid and the school, though…does he need more assistance than others? Are there natural, built-in, felt consequences if he doesn’t do it? Is the teacher using it only to reinforce what has been done in class, or is it new material?  Lots to consider…

J: I’m not a parent but I heard a parent/teacher talk about her daughter’s middle school teacher who encouraged parents to let their kids struggle and not remind or nag them about ( possibly fail) a big assignment because those middle school grades aren’t what matter in the grand scheme…H.S. grades do, but the lessons learned about responsibility in middle school are far better than an A  earned due to parent help. (loved this thought!)

A: Start now…with prompting and practice. Train while price tags are small.

M: You can’t simply dismiss 7 hours of their day with “figure it out for yourself”, regardless of the topic. Be the good parent we all know you already are. Teach them how to think through problems whether they are academics, or integrity and responsibility related. Reign them in when needed and give them space to hang themselves when needed. Most importantly, do what YOU think is best for them. We were all raised differently and are independent, functioning adults. Cross your fingers and hope they still come to you to ask for help and advice when they are 16, 18, 20, 25, 35, 45…

C: When I answered this question for my daughters, it boiled down to me asking myself  – “How did my parents manage my studies?” Bottom line  – my parents didn’t! They cared, they made every resource available but they didn’t micromanage or helicopter —they held me accountable! So my thoughts? NOW is the time to make them responsible! Even when you know they have work and might not make the choice to do it —Don’t intervene! This is the best time for these little people to spread their wings —OR NOT! What better time to learn life lessons AND consequences while in the safety of their parental nest! The REAL WORLD isn’t as kind!

L: I love this string. It’s very helpful to me. I have a middle schooler with an IEP (Aspergers) and I struggle with helping him / making him responsible & letting him fail. Maybe if I don’t rescue him when he doesn’t turn things in, it will be his investment and not mine, and set him up for success in high school. It’s very different with him. My two teenagers did their own work in middle school & asked if they needed help. However, they were also both in gifted ed & superb students. Every kiddo is different.

These comments help me see how other parents work through similar challenges, and it always helps me grow.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this subject. Leave a comment below.

P.S. Thanks to all my Facebook responders! I appreciate it.



  1. This is a great discussion, Tammy!

    I have a very different take on the matter because I homeschool. When my oldest was in public school, I helped him if he needed the help. I also thought homework was pretty ridiculous considering they were just in school for 7 hours and had to come home and do a couple more hours of work. If I ever felt like it was creeping in on our family life, I would help him to get it finished quicker {this was rare and he was a straight A student}.

    Honestly, it’s different with every child. As a homeschool parent, I’ve realized that as far as their education goes, if they know something they know it. They shouldn’t have to repeat it 100 times. I have one child that needs repetition and 2 that do not.

    I give my kids other responsibilities like chores and serving our community.

  2. This is great Tammy. I’m not a parent, but as a teacher, I think it’s important to make sure kids know that asking for help is a part of being responsible. We can’t always do things on our own, and it’s important to ask for help when we need it. I love to see my students make an effort to try things on their own first and then ask for help if they need it once they’ve given it a try. It shows initiative, initiative in doing their work and in helping themselves accomplish a task. Recognizing when you need help and then seeking out that help is a mature response. I could say more on the topic, but I wanted to throw this out there. Sometimes it’s a forgotten aspect of responsibility.

  3. Great answers. My son is in 4th grade and I too have been wondering how much reminding and prompting I should still be doing. He needs to learn there are consequences if he forgets.

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