Lessons on Accountability for Teens

By Darlena Cunha
It's easiest to teach accountability while your child is still under your wing.
It's easiest to teach accountability while your child is still under your wing.

One of the hardest lessons your teenager will have to learn as he grows up is accountability. In words and deeds, your child must march into new territory where you will no longer be there to shield him from the consequences of his actions. Teaching him accountability may be frustrating, but it will help him immeasurably as he grows into adulthood and begins to face the world alone.

Start Skipping the Fabricated Punishments

Sending your child to her room may have been a great way to calm her down and force her to think about her actions when she was younger, but as she grows, in order to fully learn accountability, you'll have to come up with something else, according to Clinical Psychologist Laura Markham, who writes Aha! Parenting. When your child missteps in her teen years, make her own up to her actions by assuming responsibility and making amends toward the injured party, she says. These are natural consequences in the adult world, and she would do well to recognize that early on. Plus, it will help her avoid a repeat of the situation because the incident will stick out in her mind as something she did and then had to try to fix.

Set a Good Example

Often, without even realizing it, even adults try to get out of accountability by blaming other parties for their faults or inconsistencies, states Disney Family. Check your own behavior. If you are late to an event, own up to it instead of casting blame on the chores you had to do first, a scheduling issue or (and especially) your kids. Show your child that even though outstanding factors contributed to your mistake, the responsibility rests with you. By having a solid example of accountability in her life, your teen will be more comfortable owning her own mistakes as she moves forward.

Keeping Promises

Part of accountability that is often overlooked is the preventative form, where you keep the promises you make to others. This is a positive form of accountability, but one that is just as important as making amends for wrongdoings, according to School Family. As your teenager grows into an adult, he'll be more successful and more well-liked if people feel he is trustworthy and are able to take him at his word. Being accountable to those he's reached out to is an important step in that direction.

Remain Vigilant

Just because you are teaching your teen about accountability doesn't mean she'll be listening. Don't expect her to stay within her boundaries, keep her promises or own up to her mistakes willingly. It's scary and hard to do those things, and, often, when searching for freedom, teens will try to find ways around their parental controls, not understanding that a large part of the freedom they seek comes with the accountability they are trying to avoid. If you catch your teen being sneaky, talk to her about it immediately and give out appropriate consequences that will teach her long-standing lessons about lying and avoiding responsibility, states More 4 Kids. Make sure you emphasize that the consequences would have been less harsh had she been upfront with you and accepted responsibility for her actions.

About the Author

Darlena Cunha has been a writer and editor since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Connecticut. Cunha is also completing her master's degree in mass communication.