Teaching responsibility at home: Implementing an after-school routine

There are many ways that we, as parents, can be teaching responsibility at home.  A good place to start is with the various activities and routines that we are faced with on a daily basis.  Having children take responsibility for themselves on a day-to-day basis, gives them an opportunity to consistently practice this valuable life skill.  In addition, it lightens our load and makes for a more harmonious and efficient household.  One example of this is having children take responsibility for themselves after school.  

When my daughter first started school, she would come home with a full backpack and randomly start taking out the things that were of interest to her (e.g. work she had done at school and was proud of or permission slips for class trips).  Typically,  things that I needed to see or attend to (e.g. her lunch bag) were left in the backpack and a smattering of papers were left lying haphazardly on the table.

I don’t know about you, but I find that after school is a busy time…my daughter wants my attention to talk about her day, she needs to start her homework, and I am preparing supper, as well as her lunch for the following day.  There has to be a process in place that brings a bit of organization to the chaos.

In addition, I realized that this was an opportunity to teach her about taking responsibility for herself and her belongings.  Although it would probably be easier and faster for me to simply do whatever I needed to be done, if I did everything for her, not only would I end up feeling resentful, but I would also be teaching her that this is what she should expect from life.

So, with this in mind, we worked out this ‘after-school routine’…

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  • Hang up coat and put away footwear (her outdoor clothing is kept on the lower bar of our closet so that she can reach it, however, if this isn’t possible for you, hooks would also do the trick).
  • Unpack lunch bag (this includes putting empty reusable lunch containers into the soapy water I have waiting in the sink and putting things into the garbage and/or the recycling bin, if applicable) .  Currently, I wash and dry the containers, but I imagine that this will change as she gets a little older.
  • Pull out planner (this is the ‘day-planner’ type book that teachers use to communicate important information, such as homework to be completed, upcoming deadlines, etc.) and read any messages to me (I actually need to sign the page to indicate that the messages have been communicated).  Return planner to her backpack so it doesn’t get forgotten at home.
  • Pull out any notes sent home on behalf of her teacher or school.  Place these in a neat pile on the table for me to read at a less hectic time.
  • Pull out homework, if applicable, and begin working (both she and I know what needs to be completed because we have already read the note in her planner).  Once homework is done, put it back in her backpack.
  • Hang up her backpack on its hook by the door (I just used one of those heavy-duty plastic hooks that adheres to the wall and can easily be removed without damaging the paint)…all ready to grab on the way out the door tomorrow!


She knows the expectations of her, so she does what needs to be done without repeated reminders (this is a bonus, since reminders tend to annoy both of us).  After school is still a very busy time, but having a routine in place helps keep us on track and teaches her important life skills in the process!