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Family Accountability

How Can Kids Stay Accountable Outside the Home?

by Ali Royann

Dear Ali,
How can my kids maintain accountability while at school, their friends’ houses, and other activities away from home?

Uneasy in California

Dear Uneasy,

Way to go Mom and Dad for setting up accountability in your home! You are taking the right steps to teach your children the importance of taking personal responsibility for their actions and decisions. But how do you ensure that they continue this same behavior when you’re not around?

From the time kids are young, we need to continue emphasizing the need for accountability as a lifestyle, not just what we do in the home. It involves much more than merely installing accountability software or internet filtering on their devices. Accountability requires a great deal of involvement from you!

Parents should focus on these four critical areas to encourage an environment of accountability.

1. Relationship

The best way to achieve accountability in any area is to have a close relationship with someone to talk through struggles, temptations, and choices. Cultivating a trusting relationship with your children will go a long way in maintaining open communication about their decisions and actions. Knowing that you are the one person who will support and love them no matter what will encourage them to come to you with confusing and difficult situations.

If you don’t invest in your relationship with your kids, they will seek this connection somewhere else.

If you don’t invest in your relationship with your kids, they will seek this connection somewhere else. As a result, they may confide in others who do not have their best interests in mind. Having a loving support system in place will encourage kids toward transparency, especially when they need wise advice.

2. Conversation

Conversation needs to occur at home on a constant basis. By making yourself available to discuss things when your kids need to talk, you show them you are interested and care about what is going on in their life. Talk about their relationships, friends, activities, and plans for the future. Ask about the struggles and pressures they feel from outside influences and the choices their friends are making.

Daily conversation will encourage an environment of openness and allow you the opportunity to direct questions toward important and sensitive topics. When kids feel loved and safe to discuss issues without fear of judgment, they will have the confidence to come to you with anything. The influence you can have on your children by simply being available can greatly impact their actions and decisions!

Show them you are interested and care about what is going on in their life.

3. Boundaries

Kids need to know what is ok and not ok and why. Boundaries need to be clearly taught and compliance expected 100 percent of the time, not just at home. Having clear guidelines will make decision-making easier when they are faced with choices you are not around to witness.

What types and ratings of movies are ok? What video games are acceptable? What places and groups are to be avoided? When can technology be used and with whom? When boundaries are clearly defined, it eliminates confusion.

Kids are inquisitive! It helps for them to know the reason why things are not healthy for them, not just because mom and dad said so. By discussing the dangers of wrong choices, they will think twice before heading into a situation they know can be harmful to them.

4. Escape Plan

Peer pressure can make it hard to make the right choices. Kids need to know how to get out of situations that make them uncomfortable or that go outside the boundaries set for them. Having a plan in place to let your children discreetly ask for help can be a huge benefit to maintaining accountability.

Set up a trigger word that will initiate a phone call from you.

Set up a trigger word that will initiate a phone call from you. If your kids text you the trigger word, you can call them and explain they need to excuse themselves because they are required at home. Just knowing there is a quick way out of any situation can alleviate the pressure to make the wrong choices.

Encourage accountability with your children by investing in your relationship with them! Make their success in life a priority while you have influence in their choices and decisions. The impact you make on them while their young will be far reaching into adulthood.

Yours in accountability,

“Ask Ali” is an op-ed column answering common questions about accountability and related topics.

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