Accountability is an issue I often face in my classrooms, and one on which I am relentless in trying to teach my students. I tell them that when you are accountable, you don’t blame the kid sitting next to you for throwing something across the room. You can’t control what others say and do but you certainly can control what you do.
Here’s a typical example that comes up regularly. “I didn’t do my homework because I had to do chores around the house, or I didn’t do my homewwork because the family had to visit my grandmother, and we didn’t get home till late.”
So, how do we teach kids accountability?
- Teach them to be conscious and informed whenever they make a choice.
- Try to determine if the choice is more likely to help them or someone else, or on the other side of the coin, hurt them.
- Talk over the choice with people they trust and make sure to include at least one adult.
- After making the choice, review what they did and what happened as a result. Have them self-reflect by asking, “Did my choice help someone or help me, and did it make a situation better?”
Kids can learn from their choices by remembering what they did and what the consequences were.
When making a poor choice, teach children to:
Admit it! Not an easy one for most kids, as they may be afraid of the consequences and prefer to take the easy way out. A suggestion might be to have your child write in a journal about the poor choice and describe the consequences. They might answer the question, what did you learn as a result of your choice, and would you do it again? Why or why not?
Teach your child to do what they can to make up for their poor choice. Model a poor choice you made and what you did about it.
Here are two suggestions of books for different age levels that teach kids accountability. “What do You Stand For? A Kid’s Guide to Building Character” by Barbara Lewis, Free Spirit Publishing, non-fiction
“Choosing Sides” by Irene Cooper, Morrow Junior Books for ages 10-13, fiction
“Trouble’s Child”, Mildred Pitts Walter, fiction ages 12 and up