Holding Our Children Accountable
If our goal is to raise our children to be responsible adults, then the sooner we begin treating them as adults and actually let them begin to practice, the sooner they will learn how! Treating our kids as adults does not mean giving them responsibility they can't or won't handle. Nor does it mean giving them authority without responsibility, and letting them run wild and out of control.
It does mean treating them with respect and holding them to the same basic rules we require of any other responsible person (i.e., holding them accountable). For ourselves, that can mean we are expected to be at work on time, and pay our bills when they are due. For our kids, it can mean getting to school on time, keeping their things picked up, or doing their school work without being reminded.
Transferring responsibility and accountability is a gradual continuous process in which we hold our children accountable for their actions based upon their emotional and psychological age rather than their chronological age. This means ignoring their chronological age and giving them the respect they deserve for the level of maturity and responsibility they are ready and willing to accept. It also means not forcing them to accept more responsibility then they are able to handle. And, it means maintaining control over any area of their life where they are not ready, or not willing to take responsibility.
To do this within the context of discipline so that our children can understand and learn what we are trying to teach them, we need to communicate the following message clearly, and consistently.
"I will turn over responsibility and hold you accountable for specific areas of your life. If you meet those responsibilities, I will respect your right to run those areas of your life without interference from me. And, I will continue to do so as long you continue to be responsible to yourself . . . and accountable to me."
If we don't hold our kids accountable for the responsibilities appropriate to their age, we are not treating them as adults "in training". There is nothing wrong or unreasonable about expecting a four-year-old to pick up his or her toys before going out to play with friends. But there is something very unhealthy about letting our children go out to play time after time while the toys lay scattered where they dropped them. Our children learn to be responsible by being given limited authority and being held accountable for it. This gradual transfer of control to our children is the key to successfully training them to become responsible ADULTS.
We teach responsibility by holding our kids accountable.
copyright Ben McCart 1991-2009