Accountability: Four Ways To Teach Kids Responsibility
“Why can’t you be more responsible?”
Whether in response to a broken toy or broken promise, parents across time and cultures have expressed this sentiment to their children. We all want our kids to learn the importance of accountability, ownership, and being people of their word, but finding ways to teach kids responsibility is easier said than done.
Set Clear Boundaries
Defined simply, responsibility means that you do what you have to do, whether you want to or not. In other words, knowing the expectations and carrying them out reliably. For a kid to meet their expectations, they must first know what they are.
Even if an expectation seems obvious to you, you shouldn’t assume it’s obvious to your kids. It’s important to have a conversation with your kids about what you expected of them and what the consequence of not meeting an expectation will be. This conversation shouldn’t just occur when expectations aren’t met, and it shouldn’t only come in a scolding tone. Be sure that the expectations and boundaries are reasonable and attainable for your child.
Deliver Consequences Correctly
Consequences are an important part of holding a child responsible for their actions. It teaches children the gravity of their word and their responsibilities. However, it’s easy to descend the slippery slope of tying a child’s worth to their performance or disciplining them out of frustration or anger. This teaches perfectionism instead of responsibility.
Consequences should be consistent. It should be clear why you are giving the consequence, and you should also express in words that you still love your child. It’s also good to keep in mind that the word discipline doesn’t mean “to punish” but literally “to teach.” When giving a consequence, it’s important to reinforce what the expectation is and encourage your child in their ability to meet that expectation.
Get Them Involved in Weighty Tasks
A child isn’t going to learn a skill if they don’t practice it, and this is true of teaching kids responsibility as well. It’s good to give children opportunities to practice being responsible by getting them involved in more significant tasks around the house. This may involve getting a child a pet that they have to help take care of or giving them a chance to take ownership of their space by letting them have a hand in redesigning or painting their room.
Creating this kind of scenario shows that you trust your child and believe they are capable of taking on these roles. This alone is often enough to help a child rise to the occasion.
Set the Example
Even if it seems like your child isn’t listening to you, you can be sure that they are still learning from you whether they realize it or not. You are your child’s first pattern for responsibility. If you show your child that you do what you say you will and you take ownership of your mistakes, your child is far more likely to follow in your footsteps toward responsibility.