Bullying is a huge issue in our schools and communities. It is prevalent in schools and after school activities. In kids and adults. Most of us know that it is a problem, but we often feel powerless to help. In my first 3 posts on Bully Proofing your Family, we talked about Acknowledging Bullying, Victim Blaming, and how to Recognize Bullying. But there is another piece of the puzzle that we have to work on to best help our kids. As parents, we need to enforce accountability, both in our kids and with ourselves.
What does Enforce Accountability mean?
Enforce accountability means we have to be responsible for our actions. And not just the direct effect of our actions, but also how our actions affect other people. There is a sign in my kitchen that says “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices.” This quote pretty much sums it up. My kids have explored this sign in-depth. “See mom, I can do what I want!” Yes, dear, you can. That’s your choice. “So I won’t get in trouble?” Not exactly… It’s a great conversation starter.
We all have the opportunity to choose what we say and how we act. It is very easy to write off all of what we do as just about us. But the simple truth is that we live in communities. And what we do affects those around us as well. Enforcing accountability means acknowledging when we screw up and making amends when necessary. We have to practice it with ourselves and teach our children the same.
Helping your kids
Kids are great imitators (for good and for bad)… so if you want them to treat others kindly, we have to be kind to others. And if we want them to be responsible for their actions we have to be responsible for ours. There are several things we can do to help enforce accountability in our kids.
1. Be kind
Model kindness and understanding to your kids. Offer help when someone is struggling. Share a smile with a mom whose toddler is totally melting down. Sometimes you will catch yourself being unkind. We’re all human. But acknowledge it aloud and make amends. Encourage your kids to be kind to others as well. And if you happen to notice an act of kindness between your kids, jump on that immediately! Let them know that you noticed and are proud of them. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way. Pay special attention to kindness that happens at inconvenient times or when they are personally struggling and don’t know you’re watching.
2. Don’t lose your cool
If you catch your child being a jerk to someone else, don’t lose your cool. But don’t ignore it either. Have a conversation. Let them know that their actions are not OK. But no yelling or screaming. If we lose it every time they mess up, they will work even harder to hide their mistakes. And mistakes happen. It’s part of growth. If we approach the situation with kindness, love, and empathy, we encourage them to be honest.
3. Make amends
When your kiddo screws up (and they will… no one is perfect), help them figure out how to make things right. It’s time to learn to say “I’m sorry.” And mean it. Talk about how they can make things better. Is a heartfelt card or gift appropriate? Do they have a plan to pay back something destroyed? Let them come up with several options and sit back and be their sounding board. If they are having difficulty finding solutions, offer to help come up with some ideas and see if any work for them. But remember, their actions = their responsibility to fix. It is our responsibility as parents to call them out when they’re off the mark. It is our responsibility as parents to hold them accountable for their actions. But it is THEIR responsibility to fix things.
Enforcing accountability means understanding that we’re not perfect, but acknowledging that we are responsible for our actions and that our actions can affect others. And sometimes this means we have to take extra actions to right a wrong. We are only responsible for our own words and actions, so best to make them count.