Accountability is a really hard concept for kids to grasp. The idea that you are responsible for your own actions, and then have to accept that responsibility is quite the undertaking for a child. However, by setting the precedent and with these few tips, your kids will be on the road to accepting responsibility and understanding accountability.
What is Accountability?
Accountability might carry a negative connotation for most, we often think of it as owning up to something we have done wrong, and therefore paying a consequence. This is sometimes the case, but accountability can also be what you do before something goes wrong. For kids, this might be following the rules as a way of being accountable for their actions, so that they don’t hurt others or make bad choices.
We can help our kids understand that being accountable for their actions means holding themselves to a high standard of behavior, not fearing or stressing about a consequence of negative behavior. They have the ability to make their own choices, and are held to a standard of responsibility for those choices that they make.
Tips for Teaching Accountability
Teaching accountability isn’t about punishment or discipline, rather it’s about making accountability within your household the norm. Here is what this looks like:
- Everyone in the family is responsible for their actions, including parents. No one gets to change the rules as a result (or to justify) their actions.
- Set clear expectations for behavior and model what they look like. For example, if speaking kindly and not yelling are expected of kids, then the same should be modeled by adults. And because we all lose our cool, apologizing as adults is part of teaching accountability to our kids.
- Avoid the blame game. Kids (and adults) will often try to justify their actions based on what occurred around them. Remind your child that regardless of how others act, they are responsible for how they respond, and ultimately for their own behavior.
- Tell children what to do, rather than what not to do. Like we mentioned above, part of accountability is what we do before engaging in a behavior, not just the consequence for behavior. Likewise, we can help children be accountable for their actions by reminding them before a play date, “remember we keep our hands to ourselves and speak kindly to our friends”.
- Praise responsibility. When you catch your kids showing accountability for their behavior, or even fessing up to unwanted behavior, acknowledge it. Phrases like “thank you for telling the truth” or “I like how you kept your hands to yourself when your brother pushed you”, will reinforce their attempts at responsibility.
What Accountability Will Teach Your Kids
Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids. Have conversations about the importance of responsibility and accountability for their actions. By making accountability and responsibility the norm in your house, you will stop the ‘blame game’ and will teach your kids that they have control and power over their choices and their actions.