Teaching children responsibility and accountability is a lost art. Somewhere along the way, it seems that my generation in particular (Gen X) juxtaposed spanking and discipline with accountability. Our country is suffering from millions of people who think they are owed something and that doing what’s best for yourself, regardless of how it affects others, is the ideal. “If I don’t love me first….” Many kids are taught this in school where they have little to no consequences and are constantly told how they’re getting the short end of the stick in life.
In our country religion is made fun of, kids look up to people like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian rather than real role models and the media blasts false narratives (“Hands up, don’t shoot”). So how do you teach a child to be accountable for their own actions and embrace personal responsibility? Starting young is ideal but even teens who have been coddled for far too long can learn this vitally important life skill.
1. Demonstrate Personal Responsibility
Did you ding the door of the car next to you in the parking lot? If you left a mark, leave a note! Modeling good behavior is essential in teaching kids the same. Be kind, don’t talk about people behind their backs and practice The Golden Rule.
2.. Offer Extra Chores
Having a list or chart of extra things children can do in order to earn money or privileges teaches them that work pays off. Some parents use chores as a way to earn extra TV or video game time or even extra school clothes. You have to determine what you expect (below) and what is an “extra.” Parents offers free printable chore charts based on age.
3. Expect Things
Extras are important but make sure your kids know that some things are just expected, like keeping their room clean, behaving at church and doing their homework. Providing rewards for every behavior will make the child expect something for everything they do in life. They get enough of that outside of the home!
4. Allow Children to Help You
Often times it’s easier to just get something done rather than letting your kids “help” you. As often as you can stand it, give kids jobs they can do alongside of you, especially younger children.
5. Structure, Routine and Consequences
Children need structure and routine to thrive. Knowing what to expect helps kids make the connection between action and result. For example, they know that at 8:00, it’s time to take a bath, brush teeth and get pajamas on if they want time to watch a little TV with mom and dad before bedtime. Same with household rules and the consequences of breaking them.
6. Allow Natural Consequences
Does you child have a project due at school but keeps putting it off? Reminders are great, especially for younger kids, but if you’ve bailed out your kid or teen last minute in the past, it’s time to stop. Make sure they know that you won’t rescue them again and let the chips fall where they may. After-school suspension? Oh well! Be sure to keep this age appropriate.
7. Have Reasonable Expectations
Be sure that you’re not expecting too much from your child. While setting the bar high teaches children to strive for more, don’t exceed their ability. You know them better than anyone. Just because the 6-year-old next door is polishing the silver, don’t expect your distractible little guy to do the same!
8. Include Behavior
Empowering Parents provides free printable behavior charts along with chore charts. Laying out expectations for children with behavior issues can help them remember. Are you tired of repeating yourself to your preteens and teens? Sit down together and map out which things are non-negotiable. Put them on a chart, along with the consequence of breaking the rules and follow through 100%.
9. Offer Help and Praise
Remember that children thrive on praise just like adults! Don’t go nutty and lay it on too thick, kids are smart. But reminding them how proud you are for their compliance and growth is essential for success. Make sure you’re always available to help, too. Taking the time for a special one-on-one trip for ice cream can do wonders for a kids attitude.
- Don’t Give Up
If you’re starting this with an older child, it will take time. Don’t give up! You only have your children for 18 or so years. Habits are developed very early in life and while people can change, it’s far more difficult the older they get. The foundation you provide now is critical.