Every parent has their own idea about what it means to have a child who turns out “well.” In this article we present ideas about how you can use this relationship to help your child develop skills and personal qualities that are linked to learning to be accountable and take responsibility.
Accountability and responsibility
Children who are responsible and accountable understand the consequences that their behavior has for themselves and for others, and they learn that their choices affect others besides themselves. Teaching children accountability and responsibility gives them valuable tools for living and getting along with others, and for contributing meaningfully to your family, their relationships, and your community.
Part of being responsible is:
- Being self-reliant and self-supportive
- Having confidence to make decisions without direction from others
- Doing the right things purely on principle not because someone is forcing you to do them
- Making wise decisions after weighing all options
- Holding yourself accountable for your actions
- Assuming ownership of your life
Babies and toddlers
Babies and toddlers take giant steps toward responsibility and independence as they master their own bodily functions: they learn to sit, crawl, walk, run, jump, feed themselves, how to dress and undress, brush their teeth, use the toilet.
You can’t force a child to master these skills but you can create the conditions that encourage our child to learn them.
1. Create opportunities for accountability and responsibility\, and respond positively
What opportunities can you provide your child to experiment with responsibility?
Do you praise your child for each new skill they master?
2. Create chores
Chores develop a sense of responsibility, help children learn to be accountable and helpful, and help children realize that some things are not optional—they are part of living in a family.
Note: Create a positive attitude about chores by approaching them as part of everyday routine (e.g. “if you play with your toys you put them away…after dinner we take our plates to the sink and wash them”).
How can you apply your child’s particular talents and interests to the chores you select for them? (e.g. if your child loves to sort and organize their toys, teach them to sort the silverware; if they love to touch and handle objects give them a dusting chore).
- Create job charts. At a family meeting list the jobs to be done and let each child choose the job they want.
- Do jobs along with your child, working side by side (e.g. washing your car, sweeping, dusting).
3. Teach your child to be accountable early on
Refuse to accept irresponsible excuses such as “I forgot”, or “I didn’t mean it” or “I didn’t know what you meant” if you honestly know that this is not the case.
Your response lets your child know that excuses are not acceptable.
Example: Your child of four years knocks over a vase of flowers and says “the cat did it.” How do you respond in a way that teaches accountability? What do you do?
Suggestion: The child knows that blaming the cat is easy but admitting to running in the house when they weren’t supposed to is hard. The wise parent doesn’t get into an argument about who knocked over the vase. Instead, help them find a rag to wipe up the mess and remind them that is why there are rules about running in the house. The next time they get rambunctious in the house, remind them of the vase.
Example: Your child turns is receiving poor test scores and they are spending increasingly long amounts of time on the computer playing video games or watching television. How do you respond in a way that teaches accountability? What do you do?
Suggestion: Let your child know that it is their responsibility to raise their test scores and failing to do so will produce consequences. Establish a new rule: they have to complete their homework before turning on the television or spending time on the computer.
4. Model responsibility and accountability
- How can you show that you take your own responsibilities seriously?
- How can you show dedication to your job and to your family?
- How can you focus on the positive aspects of your roles rather than frustrations and aggravations?
For more information the following resources may be helpful.
- Intimacy: The Art of Relationships. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/196912/intimacy-the-art-relationships
- Parenting Resources and Support. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/childhood-adolescence/parent/parenting-resources-support.html
- Healthy Families BC. https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/parenting
- Growing Healthy Canadians: A Guide For Positive Development.
- What do I need to know about getting a divorce? https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/divorce/family-justice/family-law/separation-divorce/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-getting-a-divorce
- Families Change: A Guide to Separation and Divorce. https://www.familieschange.ca/
- Relationships – Tips For Success. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Relationships-tips-for-success