One of the ways that we can set the tone in our households is to create expectations for our children. These expectations typically reflect our values. If we value cleanliness, we probably set expectations about how clean the children keep themselves and the house. If we value education, we probably set expectations around the time spent doing educationally-focused activity. And so, if we value the environment, shouldn’t we also be setting expectations to inspire eco-conscious kids?
But what do those expectations look like? How do we develop them? How do we inspire kids to rise to those expectations?
Developing Eco-Conscious Routine Behaviors
Some of your expectations should be embedded in regular activity. These are behaviors that (1) you model and (2) you communicate and reinforce regularly. These activities help inspire kids who see eco-conscious behaviors as part of their “normal.” Some examples include:
- Turn off the light when you leave the room (when they can reach).
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth.
- Turn off the TV when you’re not watching it.
- Do not throw garbage on the ground outside.
- Don’t waste your food.*
- Please know that we are not encouraging you to make your child clear their plate. That can lead to poor over-eating and prohibits intuitive eating. Rather, we use this as a way to encourage our kids to not frequently “change their mind” about their food and to not overload their plates; they can always ask for more.
Inspire Kids to Meet Expectations
HAVING expectations is only the first step. The existence of expectations does NOT mean your children will meet them. So let’s look at what you can do to encourage your children to practice the eco-conscious behaviors you expect of them.
- Model the behaviors you expect to see in them. If you aren’t turning off the light when you leave the room, it’s a bit hypocritical to expect your kid to do it, right? Plus when they see you doing it, they can engage in observational learning.
- Articulate the expectation. If they don’t KNOW they’re expected to do something, they are a lot less likely to magically comply.
- Explain the expectation. It’s not just about creating an expectation. It’s also about helping them understand the role that they play in protecting the planet. Explain that the expected behavior helps by conserving energy, reducing waste, etc.
- Remind your kids. They’re young. It takes time for them to adopt the practice. Help them with timely reminders.
- Recognize when they meet the expectation. Praise is positive reinforcement for their behavior.
Incorporate Eco-conscious activities or chores
In addition to the behaviors that accompany other activities, it’s also a good idea to start teaching your children about deliberate, environmentally-friendly activities and chores that are age-appropriate. For example:
- Ask your toddlers to help you put a piece of plastic into the recycling bin.
- Tell your elementary child that their job is to turn off all the lights in the house before the family leaves the house.
- Give your middle school child the job of watering the plants according to a schedule that makes sense for the plants.
- Ask your highschooler to tend the garden that grows your fresh vegetables or fruits or pollinator-friendly flowers.
Want to keep those chores and tasks organized for a child or for the whole family?
Check out our Eco Chore Charts. They’re flexible to your needs by offering you age-appropriate ideas and blank versions for your own thoughts.
Benefits of Setting Eco-conscious Expectations for Kids
When you set these expectations for your children, you are sharing your values and encouraging your children to engage with you as a family to live that value out loud!
You are also recruiting a young eco-warrior in our fight to save the planet from climate change, greed, and unsafe/unhealthy environments. We need all the help we can get. By teaching your children young, there is a pretty good chance that they will make these behaviors common place in their own lives.
When you raise eco-conscious children, you are investing in the future.