Building Better Families #10 – What Does Accountability Mean?

Today I started thinking about the word accountable.

Do I hold my children accountable?  I am not sure what that means anymore.

The oldest no longer has chores to do around the house as she is working – she does fix her own meals, manages her work schedule, gets herself to bed and gets herself up for the day without any prompting from us. We expect her to get good grades in school and be respectful of adults.12

The younger child doesn’t work, so she has chores she is expected to do. I won’t say she doesn’t complain, or that I don’t have to remind her, but eventually she does them. She also gets good grades and is respectful to adults.

They rarely give us any reason to raise our voices – does that make us good parents or does it just mean that our expectations are so low that it is easy for our children to meet them?

Once again I find myself struggling with what society is telling me should be happening and what is actually happening with our family.

If you spend any time at all watching television it would appear that children who are tweens and teens are supposed to be surly, obnoxious, argumentative, disrespectful people who eventually get old enough to move out. They don’t listen to parents, don’t respect adults, don’t trust authority and have no intention of following the rules. As long as they don’t get caught it is perfectly fine to cheat, steal and deliberately hurt others.

That is not how my children behave, nor do their friends, at least not at our house.

I won’t say we don’t have our moments, but if I had to pick the most difficult person to get along with in our house it would probably be me. (I get cranky when I get tired and I am tired a lot.)

But holding our children accountable is about more than what they are, or are not doing. It means ensuring they understand the consequences of their choices.

But my children are old enough that the consequences aren’t always easy to see and many times the consequences are not something we control anymore;

  • If they choose not to stand up for a friend who is being bullied, there are no privileges lost or bad grades to show for it. They may lose that friend, or they may feel bad about themselves.
  • If they choose to lie then they will lose the trust of the person they lied to.
  • If they start smoking they may be stuck with an addiction that lasts a lifetime.
  • If they drink, they may get sick or get arrested
  • If they don’t do homework to play video games there are bad grades
  • I they don’t eat healthy‚Ķ.. okay at that age, nothing happens

Holding children accountable doesn’t end when they are old enough to drive, old enough to vote or old enough to drink.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

– James Baldwin

This quote reminds me that a big part of holding my children accountable is holding myself accountable. My children are watching what I do and how I do it.

  • If I want them to be good drivers then I need to not speed
  • If I want them to be honest, then I need to keep my promises
  • If I want them to eat right, then I need to eat right too
  • If I want them to believe, I need to show them how

None of us are perfect, but I hope that when my children are grown they can look at the examples we have set and know that we did our best.


If you missed the other articles in this series you can check them out with these links:NewYearsResolution1915FirstPostcard

Start Here This article is about why I started this project in the first place.

Introduction I don’t always read the introductions to a book, but I am glad I read this one.

Chapter 1 When was the last time you were inspired by something?

Chapter 2 Enjoy your family right now.

Chapter 3 – Part 1 Parenting is not about 1 great success

Chapter 3 – Part 2 – What word do you measure your parenting success by?

Chapter 3 – Part 3 – Screaming is a good thing?

Chapter 3 – Part 4 – What stories are your children listening to?

Chapter3 – Part5 – What choices have you made?

Chapter 3 – Part 6 – What is my purpose?