Founder Feels: Life Lessons with Laura | Spring 2022
There is immense power in taking responsibility for our actions. It is a SUPERPOWER! Once accountability is the norm in your home, children know that everyone is responsible for their behavior and responses. We recognize that this accountability applies regardless of who “started it” or what happened first. Our homes are peaceful (eventually), and we foster the social-emotional skills kids need to powerfully maintain healthy relationships with ourselves and navigate them with others. Accountability, my friends, is the ultimate form of EMPOWERMENT!
So how do we successfully implement a Culture of Accountability in our home, you ask? Here are three basic steps to serve as a solid foundation upon which to build a Culture of Accountability in your home:
Step 1: Be Clear
Be clear about the family rules and expectations and what consequences will result if not followed. Clarity is critical, folks! Children who understand their expectations and genuinely grasp the reasoning tend to give parents better long-term responses. You might consider posting the family rules in a common area in your home, including older kids in the expectations setting process, or anything you come up with to keep everyone aligned.
Step 2: Communicate
It doesn’t matter who made who mad first. It doesn’t matter who started it. Each person is responsible for following family rules, period. Sometimes, instead of accepting responsibility and being accountable, human nature is to try to shift focus to someone else. When our children do this, it’s our job to let them know they can respond powerfully instead of blaming another. Talk with your children and help them figure out HOW they will follow the rules. It can, at times, be tempting to say, “Don’t do that!” to get them to stop doing something – but we must take the time to explain WHY they can or cannot do something. Ask your children how they can be successful and how you can help them be responsible for meeting family rules and expectations. At the onset, this activity is critical to creating accountability in the home and along the way when expectations are unmet and you need to get back on track.
Step 3: Acknowledge & Reward
Positive affirmations and rewards go a long way towards achieving a culture of accountability with kids. Decide together on rewards for accomplishing the goal of following rules and meeting expectations. For example, if your child makes their bed in the morning before school, they get an extra ten minutes of reading before bed. An older child may ask for an extended curfew one night. Rewards can be age-appropriate and as simple as extra hugs or quality time together, kind words of gratitude, a new favorite book to read, or a dip in the treasure box. There is no age limit on rewarding positive behavior, and everyone enjoys that dopamine hit when they accomplish goals and tasks. Bottom line: point out when your children practice clear communication, engage in problem-solving, follow the rules, respect boundaries, and praise them for it!
How We Achieved a Culture of Accountability in Our Home
When it comes to instilling a Culture of Accountability at home and with our kids, it doesn’t matter if children think expectations and rules are fair or not; they need to take responsibility for meeting them. The important thing here is that we actively remind ourselves and one another of our responsibility to be personally accountable. Trust me when I say your children will thank you later.
We’ve covered the basics of building a successful foundation for a Culture of Accountability. From my heart and own experiences, here are some additional tips that have served me along my way.
1. We Teach Best By DOING
Creating a healthy culture of accountability begins with us as parents modeling what we ask of our children. When we make our beds, wash the dishes, and speak kindly to one another, we show our children we also do what we expect of them. It’s the basic principle of practicing what we preach. By modeling, we demonstrate that everyone in the family aligns with the rules, shows mutual respect, and helps cultivate a Culture of Accountability more than one may realize.
2. Support Our Children at the Start of a New Task
This one might take some patience. Those serious about creating a culture of responsibility will stand with their child as they struggle to master a new skill. We need to provide them with guidance and support and maybe even an example of what a job well done looks like at the START of a new task or chore. Be there to help! Be there to cheer them on! Just BE there! Remember to praise their efforts, and, eventually, those efforts will turn into success. And remember, our children pick up on our vibe, mood, and mindset through observance and intuition. So be mindful, present, and aware of your nonverbal actions through this process—yet another means for us to model positive behaviors.
3. Routine + Reward Maximizes Success (and FUN!)
INCENTIVES, INCENTIVES, INCENTIVES! Accountability TRIPLES when there is a routine PLUS reward. For every chore or goal accomplished in our family, our kids received a Reiss Buck. Twenty Reiss Bucks equaled one real dollar. You could trade your Reiss Bucks in for cash, save them up, or use them for items in our treasure box or quality time with mom or dad. Reiss Bucks were a HUGE success in our home and made being accountable fun.
Confession: where the Reiss Bucks succeeded, I’ve had fails in this area. A case in point was my ‘Fun, Fun, Five Friday’ healthy-eating incentive, a reasonably epic fail albeit well-intended. If the kids ate healthy all week—made healthy choices, ate healthy portions, and maintained a healthy mindset—then on Fridays, they could have anything they wanted. I happened to think it was brilliant, but it was not – my girls, now 21, 18, and 17 tell me that ‘Fun, Fun, Five Friday’ created binging. To quote one of them, “I think because we could only eat healthy throughout the week, as soon as I got to school or a friend’s house, I’d binge. As soon as you guys went to sleep and I could steal snacks from the cabinet, I did. I would eat as much as I could any chance I had.”
It’s a true story. I remember when a fellow mom called me out of genuine concern over one of my daughter’s excessive eating at her house during an afternoon playdate. It was mortifying. So be patient with yourselves if you unearth unintended consequences. Some things are going to work, and some things won’t. Still, if we come from a place of love, mindfulness, intention, and accountability, we are good!
4. Take Advantage of Teachable Moments
Anything can be a teachable moment. Simple, everyday occurrences can be HUGE opportunities to instill and reinforce personal responsibility and accountability with our kids! On a trip to the grocery store, simply returning your shopping cart to its proper place shows your kids it’s not right to leave things for someone else to have to clean up. You can also say “thank you” to the people who bag the groceries before walking to the car. Teaching your kids responsibility in these ways can also nurture an empathetic heart in your children.
5. Consistency Is Key
When you first try to put a culture of accountability into place, your kids may each go through their different learning curves and, at times, fail to meet their responsibilities. They may think that you will eventually give in. But don’t! Be consistent, loving, and patient. Your kids may initially resist and sometimes falter, even with explicit instruction, boundaries, and good problem-solving techniques. It will take time, practice, and faith in the learning process to reach the point where your family will develop robust problem-solving strategies and an authentic Culture of Accountability.
Always remember, you’ve got this; WE’VE got this! We are all united and in this together.
With Love; In Kindness,
Laura W. Reiss | Founder/Chief Kindness Officer