Teaching Responsibility and Accountability

Parents need to start early to promote a system of responsibility and accountability for actions in their home. James Lehman calls it a “Culture of Accountability.”  Within that culture each family member is responsible for their own actions and behaviors.  They must follow the rules, meet expectations and be responsible for how they respond to frustrating or stressful situations.  Parents must be good roles models.  Talk to your kids about what it means to be responsible and accountable.  Explain what happens when they aren’t.

Start with house rules.  For example, no violent behavior like hitting and spitting, no calling your siblings names, clean up after yourself before bedtime.  Use whatever rules work for your family and your own peace of mind.

When kids break the rules, don’t allow them to blame others for what they did because no matter what happened, everyone is responsible for their own actions.   As I mentioned before, make sure the children know what the consequence is for their actions and be consistent in following through with the consequence.  I often provide children with the opportunity to determine what the consequence should be; they are usually harder on themselves than I would be.  This gives them the ability to take accountability for themselves, leaving you without having to be the heavy.

When a child breaks a rule, keep in mind that he may know what he should not do, but he may not always know what he can do.  Be sure to take time to provide alternative ways to act, otherwise, you’ll see repeated behavior and wonder why your child “doesn’t get it.”

We want to teach our children to make good choices.  The way to do that is to provide opportunities for them to make choices.  I suggest giving them three alternatives to choose from.  For example, “you can do your homework immediately upon getting home from school, you can do your homework as soon as we are finished with after dinner chores, or you can do your homework instead of watching television before you go to bed.”  They get experience of making decisions and having to live with what they decide.  You provided the choices, so they can’t make a poor choice.  It’s a win-win situation.

Children become confused when they don’t know what the expectations are, confusion leads to frustration and insecurity which results in negative acting out.  Children who are meeting our expectations, who follow the rules and receive positive feedback for that are confident and happy because they know exactly what is expected of them and where they stand with you.

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