How To Teach Kids The Importance Of Accountability

How To Teach Kids The Importance Of Accountability

We’re living in a time and place in which it often seems the people in charge have no sense of accountability ― whether it’s governors rejecting mask mandates and other public health measures aimed at keeping people safe, or leaders failing to own up to their role in big and small failures.

On an everyday level, many adults don’t understand the consequences of their actions and refuse to acknowledge when they’ve made mistakes. And as always, our children are watching. So perhaps now, more than ever, is the time for parents to focus on teaching kids about accountability.

“Accountability is a way to take responsibility for actions you’re in charge of,” Priya Tahim, a licensed professional counselor and founder of Kaur Counseling, told HuffPost. “By teaching kids personal accountability, you’re teaching them that mistakes happen and when those mistakes happen, it’s important to learn to fix or grow from them.”

“It helps instill moral values of right and wrong, even when there is no one watching,” she added. “It also allows kids to see that it’s OK to make mistakes, and there are ways to move forward from those mistakes.”

So how can parents create a culture of accountability in their homes? Below, Tahim and other experts share their advice.

Start small.

“Parents are unsure sometimes about when to actually start asking their kids to be accountable,” Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist and the author of “Mommy Burnout,” told HuffPost. “I feel like it starts when they’re toddlers, and it’s as simple as, ‘We can play with the puzzle but when we’re all done, we need to clean it up.’”

She noted that kids may wander off to play with something else or get a snack when the puzzle is finished, and too often parents resort to just cleaning it up themselves because it’s faster and easier that way. But it’s better to provide opportunities for kids to take ownership of their own little responsibilities.

“If you start early, you start setting the foundation that it’s important to be accountable: ‘Sure we can play with that now, as long as we clean this up,’” Ziegler said. “You can make it fun and have cute cleanup songs like they do in preschool, but bring it into the home to reinforce that this is how the world works.”

Give more responsibilities.

As kids get older, you can give them more things to be responsible for. The key is to make sure the tasks are developmentally appropriate, such as asking toddlers to pick up their toys and books at the end of the day.

“For kids that might be a little bit older, it could look like packing your own lunch, packing your own backpack, making your bed, or putting all of your dirty clothes in the hamper,” clinical psychologist and author Jenny Yip said. “Kids begin to understand that they do have responsibilities, and the choices they make ultimately have consequences. It also teaches them free will and how to be responsible citizens of society ― it’s ‘I do have a part in what happens in the world.’”

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