Creating Accountability in Your Home
What does it mean to create a culture of accountability in your home? Expecting children and adults to be accountable for their behavior. And what does that mean? Accountability is responsibility. Accountability happens when a person takes responsibility for his/her behavior. Accountability is important because it teaches kids how to be responsible for their own actions, successes and failures. And it interrupts the blame game that often pops up in homes. Accountability get kids ready for the responsibilities of life...school, work, future family obligations. Accountability is connected with honesty and dependability which are traits that will help your child succeed.
Imagine this scenario. You get home from work expecting the kids to be studying quietly. You walk in the door to find a gallon of melted ice cream on the counter, a dirty blender, milk sitting out, and a thick strawberry, gushy, sticky mess. Kids are watching television in the other room, and when you ask them what happened in the kitchen, both kids start talking at the same time, blaming their sibling for the mess. What really happened, and why wasn't it cleaned up? You'll never know. This is called a lack of accountability.
Now, let's sprinkle some accountability over your home. You get home from work to find a quiet home, kids studying, a blender sitting in the sink and remnants of a strawberry smoothie on the dish cloth. You check in with the kids and find out that together they decided to make smoothies for themselves. They made the smoothies, both cleaned up the mess, and then dove into studying because that's the expectation after school.
WOW! This second scenario isn't as far from your reality as you think. By creating a consistent culture of accountability, this can be your home too! Let's look at some things you can do to foster accountability in your children.
Do as I do, and as I say.
Yes, parents are the best teachers through role modeling. You can't get angry when your kids lack accountability if you are always late to pick them up from school. Parents need to demonstrate accountability also, or your kids won't respect the lessons you're trying to teach. If you want them to be responsible, you have to be responsible. When it's time for chores, pitch in and work also. When your child needs you to be present for an event, change your schedule and be there. Don't tell your child that you'll be there and then be a no show. You will send mixed signals and have very little success at instilling accountability in your kids.
Kids will try to argue and manipulate as much as possible. That's their job! But as accountable parents, we can't give in. Stay strong. Even though you're exhausted or stressed and at the end of your rope, you need to hold them responsible for their actions and follow the rules that you agreed upon. Otherwise, you're teaching them that it's ok to bend and break the rules.
Use teachable moments. Teach your kids about accountability, what it means and why it's important. Use your own behavior as an example. Use the media. After watching a movie, talk about the character's lack of accountability or incredible sense of responsibility. Talk about the news. Open communication about things that happen at school, and help your child understand what it means to be accountable.
Have clear and consistent rules and consequences in the home. Have family meetings. Set up house rules and consequences for behavior. If your child is old enough, he can join the process of making consequences. Write down rules and consequences and post them for all to see. Carry a copy with you so you can enforce consequences when away from home. Use behavior charts and chore charts to help track behaviors and expectations. It's really helpful to have a written record of expectations. That way, you avoid miscommunication.
Finally, be patient.
Understand that life throws some curve balls, and there will be times when family members slip off the path of accountability. That's ok. Talk about it. Be loving and supportive, and gently nudge your child back on the right path.
With patience, communication and some structure, you too can create a culture of accountability in your home.
by Joanne McNulty, MS