Every parent wants to raise kids who turn out to be responsible, capable adults who are able to function in the adult world. One way to accomplish this is by teaching your child responsible behavior through accountability, according to Lindsey Tischart, a counselor at New Leaf Academy of Oregon therapeutic boarding school for girls, in an article for the Aspen Education Group, an organization committed to improving the quality of life for youth and their families. In many ways, you are the person to whom your teen is accountable, so lessons in accountability are as much about you as about your teen.
Teens choose people they look up to and want to be like. You could be one of those people. Ask your teen who her role models are and why. Have her make a list of qualities that make each person a role model to her. Now put the shoe on the other foot and ask her who might look up to her as a role model, such as a younger sibling, a classmate or friend. Have her identify qualities in herself that make her a good or bad role model. Remind her that someone is always watching her and her influence in the life of another should influence her to be accountable to that person. Encourage positive traits such as honesty, reliability and clear boundaries.
Your teen can benefit from self-control to encourage responsible behavior. Teach him to stop and think before he acts, according to Tischart. Allow your teen to choose between doing what he should do or doing something different, such as playing video games instead of doing his homework or forgetting to pay his insurance and losing his driving privileges. Tischart recommends that you allow your teen to experience the natural consequences of his behavior. She also recommends that you divorce your identity from your teen’s success or failure so he gets credit for either result.
Foster Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay, authors of "Parenting Teens with Love and Logic," recommend that you give your teen more responsibility to encourage accountability and to prepare your teen for adult life. Give her responsibility, such as doing her laundry, balancing a checkbook for the account where you deposit her allowance or requiring that she pay her phone bill if she wants to have one. Don’t allow her to blame anyone if she doesn’t step up and act responsibly. Remind her that she had a choice and didn’t follow through, so she can’t play the victim, according to licensed social worker James Lehman for Empowering Parents.
Your teen needs motivation to make the right decision when you aren’t there. Praise his success and have him own it. Use pride lines to help your child identify his successes by completing sentences such as “I really excel at…” or “I made a difference today by…” If your teen has difficulty identifying successes, provide a few hints so he can find them.
- Aspen Education Group: Raising a Responsible Teenager
- Parenting Teens with Love and Logic; Foster Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay
- Empowering Parents: Stop the Blame Game: How to Teach Your Child to Stop Making Excuses and Start Taking Responsibility
- Missouri 4H: 10 Minute Leadership Lessons