Did you know that one of the most important character traits we can teach our kids is personal accountability? But, how?
Accountability is a hard enough concept to explain to a child, never mind teaching them how to make it an integral part of their inner guidance system. If you feel like you are missing out on opportunities to teach this because you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone. The task does seem daunting.
In my years of parenting, I’ve learnt (and in many cases, mastered) how to nurture and care for my kids. I have potty trained four kids (my kids are 6, 8, 24 and 27) successfully without bribing them with presents (except new underwear and tons of pride). I have spent a lot of time working on how I discipline, not yelling and shaping how I phrase things to avoid hurting their self-esteem. I have taught them the basics of good character – to say please and thank you; to be generous and kind; to maintain a level of humility, and to say they are sorry and fix things when they know they were wrong.
It’s time now to take on some of the more abstract but equally important concepts. Personal accountability is at the top of my list. There is no point after all in raising our kids to achieve great levels of success if they won’t hold themselves accountable to their actions.
Why is Teaching Personal Accountability Important?
Consider for example the Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski who stole more than $120 million dollars from company funds, gave himself bonuses of $80 million, which of course was not approved by the company directors, and still claimed innocence. Found guilty in 2002 and sentenced up to 25 years in prison, he maintained that he did nothing wrong.
Another colossal example of a lack of accountability is the BP oil spill in 2010, which dumped more than 180 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Their accountability had to be forced by a federal court that ruled the company was grossly negligent and that they were cutting corners to boost their profits. Though they were responsible for $58 billion in court fees, penalties and clean-up costs, it does not make up for the impact to our environment, all of the wildlife that was lost and the devastation to the livelihoods of fisherman in the Gulf.
I don’t want to be raising kids who go on to achieve great success, but do so with no regards to what is right or wrong. Personal accountability is an important trait in my opinion, and I wonder if we parents are doing enough to teach it.
Here’s the deal though. It is a rather abstract concept to teach. Also, personally, I myself am a work in progress. And because of that, the first step in my “mission accountability” was the hardest.
Ask Yourself Some Tough Questions
Say your son is arguing about cleaning up toys scattered all over the living room floor. He is tired. His face is red, eyes are welling up with the promise of fresh tears and there are signs that an emotional meltdown is imminent if you pursue. Do you hold your parental ground until the task is done?