#9: Do You Want Your Child To Become Accountable?

3 Simple Ways To Help Your Child



Do you make the mistake of assuming your child knows what accountability is?  Does your child understand why accountability is an important ingredient in the success recipe?  Do you know how to help your child view accountability from the view point of a coach pushing an athlete to become his or her best rather than a parent scolding or lecturing?  Are you ready to discover 3 simple ways to help your child become accountable?


#1) Get Rid Of Accountability Anxiety

Accountability is the explanation of one’s decisions and being held responsible for one’s actions.  Accountability includes actions your child has and has not taken.  To your child the word accountability sounds like a big “scary” word.  Such words usually do not exist in a child’s vocabulary.  Teachers don’t use such language when talking to their students.  Teachers don’t say “I am going to hold you accountable and check to make sure you did your homework last night.”  Instead teachers say “Pull out your homework.”  It is naturally assumed teachers are going to check to ensure it was done.  While your child is being held accountable your child may not associate this with accountability.  Everyone expects teachers to check homework, because that is part of their job.

As a concerned parent you may find yourself frequently asking your child if he or she has done his or her homework.  This is a form of accountability.  However when you ask the question in this format the answer is usually yes or no.  There is little accountability because there is no explanation if homework has not been completed.  A follow up question asking why homework has not been completed may feel like a form of interrogation to your child.  Your child may feel the need to justify his or her actions or the lack of them.

“Have you done your homework? ask “How far along are you on your homework?”  This question implies an explanation is desired if the assignment has not been completed. Your child is more likely to feel like you care about why the assignment may have not been completed.  For example your child might say “I have completed half of my homework.  I came home late from soccer practice because I helped Ben with a few extra drills after practice.”  Your child may have a good reason for not having completed his or her homework.  The key point is when you ask a question differently then your child responds differently.  Your child may feel like he or she is sharing rather than justifying.  Once your child is used to you asking “How far along are you on your homework?” then your child will not be anxious when you start holding your child accountable for other activities.  Simply ask “How far along are you on your household chores?” Or “How far along are you on applying to a scholarship?”


#2) Abolish The Ultimatums

As a parent when you are upset and frustrated, you naturally tend to lean towards ultimatums.  This means your child is conditioned to behave a certain way or negative consequences will follow. Your child either complies or rebels.  Regardless of which way your child acts, your child will associate being held accountable in one of two ways: you are going to approve or disapprove of your child’s behaviors.  Your teenager will not want to share information about his or her actions if he or she feels he or she will be judged.  True accountability is not about approval or disapproval.  True accountability is about your child acknowledging his or her behaviors and how they are either helping or hindering him or her move towards his or her goals.

Rather than saying “You need to complete ‘x task’ before tomorrow evening or else…” Try saying “This task needs to be completed before tomorrow evening.  Is there anything stopping you from being able to accomplish this?”  By phrasing the question to address anything that could potentially stop your child from completing a task is a good way to eliminate excuses later on.  If by chance there is an obstacle or challenge then the conversation moves forward.  The conversation moves to address ways to handle obstacles and overcome challenges so the task is able to be completed within the needed time frame.  Accountability moves from the past (did you do or not do something) to let’s plan head (are there any obstacles that may prevent you from completing this task within the designated time frame?)  Help your child view accountability as something to help him or her get things done.


#3) Explain Why Accountability Can Be Pleasant And Unpleasant

Your child may have mixed feelings about accountability.  Being held accountable and holding others accountable is easier in some situations than in others.  For example, sport coaches are known to be tough on players because they are pushing players to become better.  If your child plays sports then your child expects to be pushed.  Being pushed to become your best is usually seen as a positive encouraging experience so accountability is considered pleasant.  Accountability in other areas of life such as a school group project may not be as pleasant.  Generally speaking, students do not like group projects and being assigned as a leader of a group.  A team leader may need to hold other members of a team accountable.  This may be difficult especially if your child was not able to select the team members.

A majority of the team may want a good grade on a project.  One person on the team may not complete his or her part or complete it up to the group’s standards.  Your child does not like to be in a position of holding someone else accountable so your child does not understand why others would want to be in a leadership/management position. Your child may come to the logical conclusion that people who manage and hold others accountable do so because they can make good money as a manager.  Otherwise why else would someone want to go through the unpleasant task of holding someone else accountable?

Since your child is likely to experience being a team leader in a school project and being coached while playing a sport; your child may have unpleasant and pleasant experiences regarding accountability.  Therefore your child may have mixed feelings about accountability.  That is why it is important to help your child experience accountability from a loving standpoint so your child understands its importance even when things are unpleasant.


Your child is more likely to become comfortable with accountability when he or she understands it is not about approving or disapproving of certain behaviors.  Rather, true accountability is about the explanation of one’s decisions and being held responsible for one’s actions.  Accountability helps your child realize his or her decisions and actions help him or her move towards or way from his or her goals.  Accountability is an important ingredient in the success recipe because it helps your child keep his or her goals in the forefront of his or her mind.  Your child can feel good about being held accountable by getting rid of accountability anxiety.  You can abolish ultimatums and help your child anticipate obstacles and plan on how to overcome them.  You can help your child experience accountability as pleasant so your child continues to view accountability as beneficial even in unpleasant situations.


Next time you are curious about if your child has completed his or her homework ask “How far along are you on your homework?”


child at soccer practice
“I have completed half of my homework. I came home late from soccer practice because I helped Ben with a few extra drills after practice.” – Your Son


3 thoughts on “#9: Do You Want Your Child To Become Accountable?”

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