How to Raise Responsible Sons


How to Raise Responsible Sons

Smart strategies to hone a life skill

By Chan Swee Fen | 12 March 2021

Raising responsible sons should be every parent’s goal.

Being responsible can mean different things, including following through on tasks, keeping one’s word, fulfilling commitments, taking ownership for what one needs to do, being accountable for one’s behaviour, and being dependable.

Bringing up a responsible son requires patience and persistence. When we train our sons from an early age to be responsible, we are teaching skills that will prepare them for life and for building their own families in future.

It sounds like a tall order, does it not? Where do we begin if we have the privilege to bring up boys?

Consider the following S.M.A.R.T.E.R strategies to develop responsibility in your son:

  1. Start early and start small
    Building up your son’s sense of responsibility is a gradual process; hence it is imperative to start at an early age.

    “Can I train a boy who is only 3 or 4 years old?”

    Of course, you can. A 3-year-old can learn to put away his toys after playing. A 5-year-old can learn to pack his bag for school or an outing.

    I remember when my son started attending nursery classes, he was coached to be responsible for his personal belongings. Although it was easier and faster for me to pack his school bag, he learned to do it himself. The daily habit of packing his bag before heading off to school served him well as he grew older. He was able to excel during his school-going years insofar as he was disciplined, organised and took personal responsibility for his academic learning and performance.

  2. Model the behaviour you want him to learn

    “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Children learn best when parents model for them the behaviour they want the child to learn. If you want your son to attend school even when he prefers to stay home (unless of course he is unwell!), set the example by showing up for work even if you do not feel like it.

    Go a step further and label the positive behaviour.

    For example:
    • "I don’t feel like going to work today even though I am not sick. But it is my responsibility to work and I am going to show up.”
    • “Mummy has been working hard all day in the kitchen. Shall we help her with the dishes after dinner?”

    Values are caught more than taught. If you want your son to learn responsibility and respectful behaviour, it begins with us parents.

  3. Assign roles with responsibilities and coach him
    An effective way to instil a sense of responsibility is to give your son a task that really matters to him. An older child with leadership qualities can plan a weekend family outing. If your son is new to the role, coach him by setting clear expectations and showing him how he can plan and organise the event successfully.

    Taking care of a pet is also a good way to develop responsibility. While not all families can indulge a child to keep a pet, for those who do, ensure that he knows what his responsibilities are. For example, walking the dog, feeding the hamster/fish, or cleaning the bird cage.

  4. Reinforce responsible behaviour through words of affirmation
    Children often repeat behaviour that parents focus on. Instead of always reprimanding your child for not following through on a task, be affirmative when he demonstrates responsible behaviour.

    Encourage him through words of affirmation:
    • “I like the way you follow through on your task.”
    • “Way to go for fulfilling your responsibilities!”
    • “I really appreciate that you cleared up the mess on the table without being told.”

    When you highlight and affirm your child for his responsible behaviour, you add emotional deposits into his character training arsenal, which builds his self-confidence, and motivates him to repeat the positive behaviour.

  5. Teach responsibility, enforce accountability
    Being responsible is not inborn just as responsible sons do not just happen. We need to take time and explain to our young children what responsibility means, why it is important for them to have a responsible attitude and how their actions affect not just themselves but their family, friends, and the community.

    We can use everyday family life events or news stories of people exhibiting responsible behaviour to achieve this teaching goal.

    What happens when your son does not follow through with the tasks or responsibilities they have been assigned?

    You’ll need to enforce accountability. This means he needs to face consequences worse than if he had completed his tasks. The consequences, whether logical or determined by you, must be made clear to your child when he was assigned the task.

    However, avoid criticism, belittling, nagging or yelling as negative consequences as these are unhelpful and have the potential of triggering a power struggle or chipping off his esteem.

  6. Engage your spouse in shaping responsible attitude
    Fathers usually have a distinct advantage over mothers when it comes to bringing up boys as fathers know where his son is coming from because they are the same sex. Actively involve your spouse in the task of shaping your son’s attitude of responsibility.

  7. Set up helpful Routines to promote responsible behaviour
    • “Do your homework.”
    • “Pack your school-bag.”
    • “Organise your workspace.”
    • “Brush your teeth before bedtime.”
    These are some things you would expect your son to do daily. They are unexciting and boring at best and your son will try to avoid doing them if he could. But if you can get creative and set up helpful routines according to your son’s temperament and learning style, it will go a long way to promote responsible behaviour.

  8. Bringing up responsible sons is an ongoing process and a lifelong parental responsibility. We can start by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities to help them develop responsibility – a character trait that has a long-lasting impact on their lives and relationships.

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.


Swee Fen is an ordinary woman who desires to inspire others to make an extra-ordinary impact through her family life and life skills workshops, counselling training sessions and writing.

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