Accountability and effective consequences with some humility and grace

As parents, we spend an enormous amount of time “lecturing” our kids about responsibility. Often to no avail.

Nov 19, 2021

Purposeful Parenting - By Christine Fernandez

What does it mean “to be accountable for my actions”? Matthew 12:36 says “but I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgement”. Therefore, creating a “culture of accountability” in your home is vital for your child to know that, no matter who caused the problem or what happened in a situation, everyone is responsible for their actions.

Accountability is a high priority and we see this throughout scripture. The apostle Paul, for example, in Ephesians 6:4 says “do not be irritating your children” or “never drive them to resentment”. This bible verse evidently speaks about the rough and hasty treatment towards children that repels and entices them to opposition and bitterness. Therefore, parents, it would be wiser not to be critical, and be more in harmony with the Bible by being more empathetic and discerning in a loving, consistent way. However, before you hold your child accountable, first hold yourself accountable. Forgive yourself for this parenting mistake and start afresh. I did.

As parents, we spend an enormous amount of time “lecturing” our kids about responsibility. Often to no avail. Despite the lectures, not much ends up getting done anyway. To your child, this “lecturing” is actually “nagging”, and for good reason. In reality, it is “nagging” and an ineffective parenting technique. Why? Well, the constant lecturing you do will get in the way of your child’s ability to be emotionally separate from you and function in reaction to you, instead of being responsible for himself/ herself. We all know raising children in these trying times is not easy. However, as parents, you are the solution and not the problem. You can teach your children the skills they need to take responsibility in their lives now. How?

Firstly, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This implies that to be kind, compassionate and generous to others, we must all first be these things to ourselves. Secondly, try and stay in your “box” — the “parent box”, maintain your boundaries and take responsibility for your actions, not your child’s. As parents, the focus should be on clearly stating the rules and holding your children accountable, with effective consequences if the rules are not followed.

It is eloquently stated in Mark 10:13-16 “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. Therefore, teach your child right from wrong with calm words and actions, set limits and have clear boundaries and consistent rules that a child can follow. Boundaries limit destructive behaviour, and that is why both God and society have laws and consequences for those who overstep those laws (Romans 13:1- 4). Most of all give children the time of your day, your undivided attention and be prepared for trouble. Let us be clear about consequences. It is not punishment. There is a difference and you need to recognise that consequences are not meant to make your child feel humiliated, embarrassed or unloved. They are intended to teach or modify behaviour in a positive way as opposed to punishment which is retribution.

In fact, punishment “gets back” at someone for something said or done with the goal of hurting that person. Moreover, a power struggle with your child can be avoided with effective consequences. They are a gratifying tool to have under your belt because it motivates the child into good behaviour, teach them to problemsolve and gives them the skills needed to be successful adults. Therefore, what are constructive ways to reassert your parental authority?

Firstly, “know well the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds, and let them not stray” Proverbs 27-23, by giving them your positive attention at least 15 minutes a day. The more you invest in time-in with your child, the less time your child will spend in time-out. When you have to put your child on time out, make sure it is time specific. Just by saying “you are grounded until I say so”, is not good enough. It is a vague end time and sends a signal that you are not serious and you may be making an empty threat in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s finishing an assignment, cleaning up the room or even avoiding squabbles with siblings, make it clear exactly what needs to happen for your child to earn back what was taken away. Always link the behaviour to the consequence, for example, by saying “you can earn it back” instead of “you can’t have it back”, when taking away a privilege like electronics or play time. This way your expectations are defined, behaviour expected is clarified and the situation will be neutral rather than hostile. Furthermore, it emphasises the connection between your child’s behaviour and the consequence. The best consequences are always immediate so that your kids remember why they got into trouble in the first place.

Delay it and it will be forgotten. Trust me on this one as I have been there many times. I felt like I was between “a rock and a hard place”. So, make consequences your teaching tool and make them logical to ensure the consequences fit with the misbehaviour. If your child rides the bike outside designated boundaries, take away the bike and not his electronics. Even better, let your child choose the consequence for stepping over the boundary. You may find that children are harder on themselves than you are. Furthermore, try and not use the same consequence too often as motivation to earn the privilege will be lost as well. Multiple time-outs will become less effective. Therefore, switch things up by using discipline tools such as reward systems, praise and active ignoring. Finally, “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility but we will be with you, be courageous and act” Ezra 10-4, with humility and grace. Until next time, God Bless and stay safe.

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