Holding kids accountable
for their actions
October 30, 2023
In Episode 86, Sara and Kyle, LPCs, discuss how our social media account has blown up and people have been saying “kids need to be held accountable”. We give specific steps parents can take to help kids of all ages develop the skill of taking responsibility for their behavior.
In today's podcast, we're going to talk about holding your kids accountable for their actions. You know, making them take responsibility for the things they've done.
Welcome to the Art of Raising Humans. Hello, and welcome to episode 86 of the Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle.
And I'm Sara. And today we want to talk about holding kids accountable. Yes. That got lots of energy.
Taking responsibility for their actions. Yeah. Right? Yes. But before we dive into that subject, I want to say, any listeners, if you haven't ever taken time to just comment on, you know, especially if you're going to give us five stars, that'd be awesome. We'd love for you to interact with it on whatever podcast platform you're using, on Spotify, on iTunes, whatever it is, to definitely put a comment.
You know, Sara and I do this whole podcast, obviously, for free. It costs us money to produce it and stuff. And we do it because we want to help as many parents as possible. So when you share it, when you comment on it, it just gets it out in front of more parents so we can help more parents throughout the world. And we read.
We read all of that. It's something that we do. We read every comment and take it to heart. So we definitely would appreciate that from you. Okay. Now this is coming out on October 30th, Sara, so the day before Halloween.
So happy Halloween to everybody. Hope you're having some fun plans with your kids and enjoy that. We're going to have some fun trick-or-treating. Our neighborhood does a great job of that, and the kids are looking forward to it. I think I'm going to be Jake from State Farm, and you're going to be? A peacock. That's right. Fantastic. Okay. So we'd love to hear that, even on this episode.
What costume are you going to wear? What are you going to do for that? So the reason why we chose this particular topic is because recently we had some success on social media. We did. Yeah. We've been putting out a lot of reels over the past year or two. And that was kind of weird to us, but it seemed to be the way to reach families.
And so we didn't know what we were doing. Not at all. We've tried to be more creative instead of just being talking heads. Don't always succeed at that, but we're trying to get ways to engage people. And recently, if you haven't seen the video, there's a video I did with our daughter, our teenage daughter, where I just made up a scenario where I yelled at her. She wasn't listening, yada, yada, yada. And I posted some of those interactions, and now it's over half a million views on Facebook, which is cool. And we'd actually never really used TikTok up until now.
We put videos on there. Maybe we got 50 views, stuff like that. But now it's about to reach 300,000 views on TikTok as well. So I just say that to say we got a lot of different comments about that video in particular. And a lot of the comments were, even though the whole video, the intent was to just focus on repair. The intent was I yelled at her, and then I was coming back to repair that. Well, because on our podcast, yes, there's techniques we can use with our kids, but we start with us. It starts with us as the parent. We're the ones in the power position. It all goes back to us and what we're doing. So this was showing the repair side of what do parents do when they yell at their kid? Yeah. And so, because if you don't repair it, then there's all these really negative narratives.
That's a couple of podcasts ago. That's episode 84. You could go back and listen to that. But we got a lot of comments from people saying that kid needs to be held accountable. That kid needs to take responsibility for their actions. The blame isn't all on the parents.
And of course, I wasn't trying to blame anybody. It was more just modeling. Consequences. Yeah, consequences. I saw lots of consequences. What about consequences? It was more just about me modeling, me taking responsibility for my actions. And then, of course, inviting your kid into that's helpful, but that wasn't the point of the video. Right? That's just another side of things. Yeah. And we can't do that in a 60-second reel. No. No, it's pretty hard to do.
So anyways, at least we haven't figured out. No. Maybe. Maybe someday. So anyway, we wanted to focus then on answering that question because I think a lot of people might be focused in on the podcast, might be asking those same questions.
I think it's a great question. You do wonder, well, what's the rest of the story? That's really kind of what's being asked there. Like, great. Maybe you took responsibility for what you did. Not that everyone said that, but that's great.
But what about? What's my follow-up? What's next?
So I'm going to ask you, Sara. What do you think people mean when they say holding a kid accountable? I think it means they've done something hurtful or, you know, wrong, I'm using quotes, you know, and they need to be held accountable.
They need to be. You can't just let them get away with it. You have to, they have to come back and, you know, fix it or do whatever you've asked or whatever the wrong was. Yeah. And typically that's going to involve some kind of punishment, some kind of consequence you're going to impose. Yeah. And that in a lot of people's mind is how you quote unquote hold them accountable. Yeah. Because otherwise they're, we're afraid that they're getting away with something, right? So you, you have to have a consequence, you have to have a punishment because I would say by and large, a lot of people believe that's how the world works. There's always, you know, and so I, I have to show them if you do this, then, then there's going to be a consequence for that.
Otherwise I'm letting my kid off the hook. And what are they going to grow up and be like if I'm not punishing them or giving them a consequence? Yeah. Yeah. And so if you're new to this podcast, what we're going to do is, you know, we're going to spend some time kind of focusing on kind of breaking that down in, in regards to what, what we're, lots of parents are saying when they say that, I mean, really what I hear them saying is, what are you going to do to her? Right. So your daughter's done something to you in the video.
She hasn't listened to you. What are you going to do to her? You know, how are you going to hold her accountable? And then also in that they think by holding them accountable, you're quote unquote, making them take responsibility for their actions. Yeah. You know? And although there is some good in there, meaning I think everybody needs to take responsibility for their actions. I, we've done past podcasts about taking responsibility for your actions is the only way you can change your actions, you know, but the, the, the paradigm shift that we're trying to help parents make is what I am doing to my kid isn't helping them take responsibility for their actions. It's me taking responsibility for their actions that, that, that really implied in that statement is the kid in order for them to make the change, they need to take responsibility for their actions, not me make them take responsibility for their actions. I think that that's really kind of, you almost had to sit with that one for a second. If I give a consequence or punish my kid, I'm taking responsibility for their action and you have to kind of sit with that and realize, okay, as the parent, if I'm the one coming in and saying this wasn't done, so now this is going to happen, it is me taking responsibility.
I'm the one moving in and making the change. When a person takes responsibility, they're moving in on their own fruition on their own choice.
They're saying, oh, I fail. I messed up there.
I didn't get that done. I'm going to take responsibility.
I'm so sorry. This is what I'm going to do now.
And that's what it looks like. If I'm the one making those steps instead of the kid, they're not, they're still not taking responsibility. And Sara, what I've seen happen, and you and I've seen, as we work with kids who grow up in homes where parents believe it's their job to hold the kid accountable, quote unquote, or make them take responsibility, is you end up having a kid who has not developed the skill to take responsibility for their own actions.
Yeah, step up on their own. They believe it's the parent's job to make them do that. Yeah. Whatever they do in action that ends up somehow with some negative consequences, typically those negative, quote unquote, consequences are the parent doing something to the kid to then make them take responsibility. And once again, the problem with that is that it's a dance where the kid then becomes dependent upon the parent, and I believe someday dependent on an employer or someday dependent on a spouse to make them take responsibility because they have never learned how to take it on their own. Yeah. They wait for that other person, and if that other person never comes along and makes them take responsibility, then it's like, huh, all right, well, I got away with that, or oh, I guess in this case, they just keep going. You don't see them rise to it. Yeah. So it's like in a work situation, Sara, it's like they learn until the boss gets mad and yells at them, then they don't need to change their behavior.
If I'm not found out, then I don't need to change my behavior. And what do we all hope for is that even behind the scenes, even when no one's looking, you're still doing your part. Yeah, I mean, success looks like this, just to give you a picture of success. Success looks like in the scenario that we just described where it's obviously made up where I'm yelling at Abby because she hasn't done something I've asked, right, is then Abby comes back to me and owns it and said, hey, I'm sorry, you felt like you needed to tell me five times, right? I don't want that to be our relationship. I want that to be different. And I know that may, some listeners may be like, what?
Yeah, my kid would never do that. That's pie in the sky. I'm seeing teenagers do it in the practice where I invite the teenager into understanding their actions are theirs. It is actually not their parents' job to make them do this. It is their job to own it, take responsibility for it, and change it. To me, it's this idea, Sara, of having high expectations for the kid. Yeah, really high expectations. That I believe the kid wants a healthy and whole relationship with their parent.
Their life is better if it is that case, right? There is a certain type of human being that our kids want to become. And then when they do actions, I mean, Sara, I remember actually this being a big deal probably around 13, 14 with me as a kid where I would get in these yelling matches with my dad. We'd get in these arguments and we'd just yell and yell and yell and fight, right? And I remember I wouldn't, quote unquote, feel bad about it because I felt justified because he was yelling at me and I was yelling at him. But then about seventh grade, so I'm just trying to think about developmentally what happened about seventh, eighth grade. I think it was seventh where I thought, this isn't the human being I want to be. I actually don't want to be, I don't like that about my dad that he yells at me and I don't want to be that kind of person. So I took it upon myself, no prompting at all by my parents to come back and say, hey, I'm sorry for I spoke to you.
I don't want to speak to you that way. And that was an empowering moment. I didn't do it because I felt ashamed of myself. I didn't do it because I was beating myself up. I did it because it was incongruent with the person I wanted to become. And every kid has that in them. If they're allowed to take that space, if you give them that opportunity, but if we think it's our job to do it for them, then they never think it's their job to do it for themselves. Right. Right. So, so this is important because you want to break the dance. If you right now are listening and you think there's been a long history with your kid, and I don't care how small they are, how big they are, if they're just a little kid or teenage years, I want you thinking, is that something, do you believe it's your job to make the kid take responsibility for their actions?
Do you think it's your job to hold your kid accountable? And if you do believe that, so like, let's say you believe you want a kid who does take responsibility. How then are you supporting your kid to then take responsibility? So how does a parent do that, sir? How does a parent help a kid, like let's take the situation with Abby, you know, she hasn't listened five times, how do we help support her then to own that and take responsibility for it? Because a lot of the comments were, we should have punished her, you know, we should make her take responsibility. She now needs to grovel to us and say, I'm so sorry I didn't listen to you. Even though the context of the, people had no context of what the story was, they just assumed she needs to do that, you know? Well, and I would even say, you know, I always like to highlight the, you are thinking I've got to, it's my job to get this kid successful for life as an adult.
And if that's the way I believe it's going to happen, then I'm really worried about that. I'm really worried that I, you know, I want to get the right consequence, the right punishment. I got to come in there right and get this done because I've only got a few years left. And so I really honor that in parents because I've been there. That's where we came from. And we really, I do, I do understand that and appreciate where they're coming from. I think that you did what you were doing on the video, which we really didn't clarify because again, it's 60 seconds, you know, you can't say all this is, you were modeling the first step of that. You were modeling taking responsibility for your side of things. And, and in all situations, there's, everyone has a part and, and that's, that's a really good place to start from.
What is my part? And it may be hard sometimes and you think, but they blah, blah, blah, you don't, that's just not going to help you get where you want to go.
You got to start with what's my part. And in this pretend scenario, you owned your part and you model taking responsibility. And if you guys look over time and time again, you see that people, kids, it doesn't matter your age, you learn and take in more by what you see than by what you hear. So we can talk all day long to our kids, lecture them all day long, but they only take in, I can't remember the percentage is very, very tiny, like 10% or 14%. And by and large, it's what they see you doing on a daily basis. Yes. So you were modeling, I'm going to take responsibility for my part in what happened.
And I yelled, and so I'm taking responsibility. And those kids, even if in that moment, maybe this was new for her and she had never seen you do that. And so she wouldn't just jump on that.
Oh, now it's my turn. I'm sorry. I didn't. That might not work the first time, but that doesn't mean it was a failure.
Your kid's brain is still going, huh? You just took responsibility. You apologized for your part. We heard some comments about that where people were like, my parents have never done this, have never admitted wrong on their part because lots of parents think that's weakness. And so the ability to model that is so important. Yeah. And so it always starts with us first.
We're actually, we're in our position. We have the power. And so it's got to start with how am I acting? What am I doing? And I got to hold myself to that first.
And then I can invite them. So I'd say that's the first part. That is the first part. So you got to model that first throughout their life. And then I love, I kind of worded this as I wrote this up, Sara, we got to model this throughout their life and then invite and guide them into doing it as well. So this is a skill that the kids are not born with. Okay. It's a skill. Kids don't naturally just think I need to take responsibility for my behavior, right? It's something that we need to teach them and guide them. And the nuance that we're trying to teach her today, Sara, is we, you can't make somebody take responsibility.
As soon as you quote unquote make them, you just took responsibility for that. And I want to, at the end, if you're listening, I'm going to give you a great kind of picture that I think Dr. Becky Bailey does with this, that you can't make somebody. You have to invite them into doing it, model it, and then trust that they will then feel how good that feels when you do that. And they will want to do that as well. Yeah. And we have to remember whenever we bring in a consequence or punishment, it really shifts the focus off. In the kid's brain, it shifts their brain down to this fight, flight, freeze, emotional part. And so they go into that part all about the consequence. Their brain is now spending less energy on what they did and more on this terrible thing that's now happening.
How can I avoid it? This is so unfair, whatever. And the breakdown in the relationship with you. So their brain is actually spending a lot more energy and focus over there, not on what they just did and what they need to do to repair that.
So you're kind of hurting yourself. And studies show that consequences can work for a short time and it just sort of changes the behavior. But at the end of the day, they see more behavior. They see more of those same behaviors, not less. So consequences just don't get us where we're hoping to go.
We wish they did. We try, we try, we try, we try to get the magical consequence, but that's not what studies are showing. They're showing over time that you don't see a long-term reduction in behavior and you see kids now focused on consequences and not the initial behavior that you were trying to help them with. Well, like in this case, if there was a consequence given to her for not listening, which.
ÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿ In reality, the fact that I yelled, the yellinging was the consequence, right? Like, that's, that's what the parent is doing. I'm yelling at you to say, this is a consequence.
You don't listen to me. I yelled at you. You don't like this.
I yell at you, right? But then when the kid is now focused on the yelling, the kid is going, why are you talking to me this way? You know? So because I talk, because I didn't listen, I deserve to be yelled at. Is that what it is? Right? And then the kid now feels justified and not listening to you.
Justified and yelling at you. We have all been there. Everybody listening to us has done, has had somebody yell at them and go, you know what?
Forget you then. I'm not going to listen to you now. I'm not going to talk to you anymore. And a lot of times that you don't even remember what started it. Yeah. I don't even remember why my parent yelled at me, but I remember this big blow up or, you know, and you can even among spouses, right? You can remember that one fight we had.
What was that even about? You don't remember because you're caught up in all this emotion that's happening. You're not in a learning space. Yeah. And what's happening in that moment is the yelling is this consequence that then changes the whole perspective where now she's not thinking about how not listening is hurtful to the relationship. Right? Now she's thinking, you know what?
I don't know if I even want to have a relationship. I want to actually just check out of this relationship or I'm going to attack you because you're attacking me.
Especially for teenagers. They start checking out. Yeah. You can kind of feel successful with the kids, but with teenagers, even if they're going through the motion, it's, you know, it's that really good heart to heart connection with your kids. You may feel like that kid is doing, they're the good kid, but that heart to heart real connection will diminish. They'll be holding stuff back that you don't know. They're doing the motions, but they're not in it really. So but I think, okay, so if we want to get away from consequences, want to get away from punishment, we know we need to model taking responsibility.
How else do we help children? Yeah. And so we want to give a few specific examples of how we would do this. But I want to say, Sara, the expectation, you know, to listeners that we have of ourselves and we don't always meet these expectations, we expect this out of our kids because we expect it out of ourselves with every relationship, especially in our marriage and parenting. So we have this high expectation that we will take responsibility in our marriage and in our friendships that we will own our parts. And then we model that we bring the kids into those stories and we expect them to do it as well. How they interact with each other's siblings, how they interact with us, how they interact with friends. There is never a time where there is permissive parenting going on and these behaviors are not addressed. Right. But they're not addressed in the goal for us then to take responsibility for them. So let's give a few different examples how this can work for different ages, because we are very passionate about this.
We want to raise kids who take responsibility for all of their choices and own them. And it's not through consequences. We're doing it. We're doing it through teaching, guiding and modeling.
And we do. We have limits. We have boundaries. We hold those. And that's important.
Those are huge. So let's give an example of like when they were little. So one of the things I was thinking, Sara, was for a little kid. So when the kids were we go to the playground, you know, and so this may even be true for our youngest, Ellie, but especially when they were four or five or three, even right is a little kid may not want to leave when it's time to leave, you know, so. So common. Yeah. So maybe before maybe we've even done the groundwork before we go to play, hey, guys, when I say it's time to go, it's time to go. And then the dances, you're already afraid of it.
When I say it's time to go, they're going to go, no, I don't want to go. And then they run the opposite direction on the playground.
And it's embarrassing. You know, everybody's judging you. Right. So these kind of things will happen. So that's a good example of where that happens once that happens twice. You and I say, I don't like how that's going.
You know, right. We agreed to leave at this time and we need to stick with our commitments. Right. So it's not I'm not holding the kid accountable. I'm just I want the kid to take responsibility for their own actions by saying we say we're going to leave.
We're going to leave. And one of the ways that we would support them in the example I'd like to give Sara ways that we would support them as we started doing early on that we found very effective was we say, hey, when we go, I'm going to give you 10 minute warning, right, when it's time to leave. And I'll give you five minutes. And then that way, you know, hey, you can start planning. And then, you know, when it's one minute, I'm going to ask you pick one last thing to do. What's one last thing? And then to add to this part of them taking responsibility, I want them to tell me what that one last thing is. What is it? Show it to me. What is it going to be? I'm going to watch that because I want them to know I'm seeing it.
I'm watching it. And then as soon as you're done with that one last thing, what are you going to do? I want you to say, let's get out of here, dad. Right. So you see what I'm doing is I'm setting these boundaries to help them take responsibility for this big feeling they've got of, you know, they're having so much fun and it's hard.
They don't want to end. And they don't know when we're going to come back. Yeah. All because they have no control. Yeah, they have no control when we come back. They're having to go with your your wishes and your plan.
And you know what? Even at a very, very young age, kids have their own wishes and plans. And think of it as an adult. What if you always had to do what someone else wanted? That's a really tough spot to be in. Yeah. So have some compassion for where they're at.
That's a rough spot. I think what you were saying, I like you set it up. So this this conversation happens before you're going to the park. We want to go to the park.
It's going to. We're only going for an hour. I'm going to make this up. This is what's going to happen when we leave. So you're having this conversation when they're calm. They're in a great space. You're thinking about going to the park. You're not doing in the middle of the tantrum, you know, or the difficult moment.
You're setting the stage. Now, does that mean everything's going to be perfect when you go? Nope. Not the first few times. Probably. You'll have to practice. You'll have to support. And I like also at the end when you were saying this isn't something you're yelling from a bench. You're not sitting there to your three year old. All right. Ten minutes.
You know, you get up and you go over there because you know they're going to need that support. Hey, you're having a great time.
We've got ten more minutes. What are we going to do? And so you're following them around on the playground.
You're supporting them. You're reminding them of this transition time. Plus you've changed the energy. You know, you've shifted things for them. So you're helping their brain prepare for the next thing. You're getting them future focused. This is fun now, but we are looking for the next thing. And maybe you're going home for lunch or something, but you can start talking about the future, the next thing.
So their brain begins to shift. Yeah. Yeah. And so there is obviously you don't know how that's going to go, but the idea is there's trust there. There's trust that they care about what you're saying and they eventually are going to learn this skill. Now, Sara, just give one more example before we get into Dr.
Becky Bailey's kind of picture is. So if you have a teenager, you know, let's say you've asked Abby to go do the dishes, right? That's something she's supposed to do or something. And she is sarcastic or kind of blows you off. So how would you help support her in taking responsibility for her actions and changing them? Well, again, I'd want to move in first with with connection, right? I don't want to just be back sitting on the couch or, you know, do it. And I'd want to come in and find out what's going on with her. So a teenager is very capable of telling me a teenager.
Are we at teenage? So, you know, maybe she's had a really bad day at school. Maybe she's got a long list or she was having a really great conversation with a friend and she's having to stop to do the dishes. You know, so I want to move in to help understanding and seeking to understand and connecting with her.
So I might joke around. We might talk about how terrible it is to do dishes, you know, but first I'm going to I want to connect because everything's going to go better if we're connected. So you're not going to yell at her. You're not going to say, don't talk to me that way.
No, no, no. I'm going to seek to understand. I'm going to move in with empathy on what's going on and how it's hard to have to stop because you assume this behavior is her saying, I need some help here. Yes. I'm not being the human being I want to be. Right. That's the assumption. Yeah. So you're helping her take responsibility for her acting in a way that, you know, is not the human being she wants to be in this moment. And I can even I would I would first move in with empathy and connection because we got to get to a good spot in our brain and a good spot in our relationship to talk about this. Now, on one hand, I think, OK, she needs more support.
So maybe I do the dishes with her until she's ready to just get up and do them on her own. OK, so that's one thing I need to come in with. Do we need to schedule a different time? What strategies can we do so this is smoother? But I could I would then follow up and say, you know what? When you spoke to me that way, that hurt. But I can't have that conversation till we're in a really good spot together. And if we're in a really good spot, she's going to say, yeah, I was really grumpy because of blah, blah, blah. I'm sorry.
That's what you want to see. That's the goal. Yeah. Yeah. And and, you know, we've experienced that, you know, even you and I, that's what we would do. Right. Yeah. I'm like, you were kind of.
And you'd want to do this timely. You wouldn't want to wait weeks down the road.
That's a big thing. You want to do it that day or the next day, kind of follow up. You can let it breathe a little for both of you. You know, sometimes you need to let it just just give everyone a moment, but then come back and then have a plan to say, hey, next time, if you're feeling that way, just say this. Yeah. You don't need to say it that way. Right. Yeah. So that's a couple examples. We could give a lot more, but just do the time.
I want to keep it at those two. So the illustration that I think is really cool, where Becky Bailey talks about Sara at the conference back years ago that I went to with Conscious Discipline, she had a beach ball.
And there was an example like this. Like, let's say Abby comes in and you the beach ball being a symbol of responsibility, you hand the beach ball to Abby and say, hey, the dishes, you know, you said you're going to do them. I'd like them done now. And then Abby, with her sarcastic or her rolling of her eyes, she's throwing that ball back to you and saying, I want you to take responsibility for this.
I'm not going to. And then if you then react and yell, it's like you're holding the beach ball and you're like, fine. I will take responsibility for this. So then even if Abby then does the dishes, you took responsibility for her doing that.
She did not. You know, and the whole time I'm telling you, the teenagers going, they're griping the whole time going, mom made me do the dishes. And there's no learning happening other than this is the dance we do. I get mad and you get mad at me and you use your power over me to make me do stuff. What we want to do is what your response you just gave there, Sara, was you handed the beach ball back and you said, hey, looks like you're having a hard day.
You know what's going on? And you put the responsibility back on Abby to now take ownership of doing the dishes, but also communicating what's going on with with her in a different way. Right. And the whole goal is to continue taking that beach ball and giving it back. So if we did what a lot of people said we should be doing in the comments below on the social media stuff, it's actually not teaching the kid I'd take responsibility. It's actually not teaching them accountability in any way. Yeah. We're trying to, but we just have learned it doesn't work that way. It's you doing a dance where the kid thinks it's your job to make them do these things.
It's your job to make them apologize. It's your job. So they're always going to need somebody making them or yeah. And at the very least, it's hurting your relationship. Yeah. Yeah. So so I hope this helps. I want you to have that picture of that. We're gonna be doing some reels this next few weeks. I don't know what they're going to be, but I'm excited to think of ways we could communicate this there in 60 seconds, a fun reel, but be noticing on Facebook, however, you want to connect to his Instagram, tick tock, all those kind of things were there.
Get on there. And that way, then you can see these ways we're trying to do the podcast and give you this visual kind of idea. And I hope you'll find help now going forward, you know, we're going to do next week. I want to do one or in a couple weeks, the next podcast will be about listening and specifically focusing on because there's a lot of comments about that. OK, so I hope you have a fantastic Halloween and I hope you find this podcast helps you in changing this dance with your kids.
Thanks for listening. We appreciate you all. The Art of Raising Humans podcast should not be considered or used as counseling, but for educational purposes only.