Ways To Hold Your Son Accountable


We live in an ever-evolving world of cultural expectations and pressures. One where we should all be held accountable for our behavior, no matter what this looks like for us. As parents of sons, we want to do everything that we can to protect them and ensure that they engage in appropriate behaviors.

It can be challenging to find that line between letting your child know how much he is loved, how much you support his creative expression, and laying down the law in your household. Holding him accountable is an important part of ensuring that he grows up with the right level of respect for himself and others.

What does this look like? How can you take steps to hold your son accountable?

What is accountability?

There may be several different understood definitions of what accountability means. The base definition of the word is taking on the responsibility for your actions, regardless of the consequences. When children are taught to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, it helps to shape them into responsible members of the community. Best of all, it helps to develop your young person into a conscientious human, one who is valued for everything they bring to the lives of those around them.

Without accountability, your son is likely to blame others for issues he experiences. He will refuse to follow any established rules that he disagrees with, and he is likely to find a way to justify bad behavior no matter how it impacts others.

Ways to hold your teen son accountable

If we are all working to raise sons who are accountable, why does it seem that so many appear to lack this attribute? The truth is that instilling accountability in any child or teenager is not a simple task. It can prove to be a long process that requires a fair amount of diplomacy and endless patience.

You can take several steps to help your son be more accountable to himself and others around him.

Be a role model

It may feel cliché, but you truly are the best role model that your children have. As a parenting tool, role modeling can be one of the most effective resources you have to teach your son anything.

If there are values that you want to instill in your teen, demonstrate them in your daily life. If you want your son to take responsibility for his actions, you should do the same. Here are some examples of how you can demonstrate accountability:

  • Don’t blame others or try to shift blame when something happens.
  • Follow the rules, including applicable laws, and don’t try to skip the consequences if you break them.
  • If you do make mistakes or hurt others, admit it. Make your apologies and amends if appropriate.

Be sure to remember that you are human. You’re going to make mistakes and do things to offend others, hurt others, and more. Your son is watching you make these mistakes, certainly. He will also be watching how you take accountability.

Establish accountability in your own family

Before you can send your teen out into the world as a stand-up young person who is accountable, you need to ensure that everyone in your family reflects this same culture of accountability that you are looking to instill.

Each person in your family needs to be responsible for their behaviors and actions. They will also need to stick to the established rules and responsibilities in the household while understanding the expectations placed on them. Each person needs to own how they respond when things are frustrating, stressful, or scary.

One important thing, and often a challenge to stick to, is to ensure that everyone follows the same type of rules. No one, including parents, should be allowed to adjust the rules to better fit their personal needs or feelings.

Figure out what boundaries look like for your family

To be accountable, your son needs to understand what the rules and expectations of him are. This allows him to be aware of the consequences that he could see for his actions. He needs to understand that if he chooses to break a family or household rule, there is a consequence he needs to face.

This only works if you remain consistent and firm in your resolve. The consequence must be seen through if you are to see an improvement in behavior and future decision-making. It’s very easy to cave to pressure and allow your son back on his iPad before the weeklong consequence is up, but what kind of message is this sending to him?

Stay involved but don’t be overly involved

This sounds complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. Studies have demonstrated that parents who are consistently involved with their teen’s education are more likely to have kids that do well. The same holds true for other aspects of your son’s life.

Keep the communication open, friendly, and completely honest from a very young age. Ask questions about his interests, his friends, and the things that make him happy. Go to his games if he plays sports or attends his recitals if he is involved in music or dance. Demonstrating to your son that you support him in all of his pursuits will help him feel valued. This will then make him more eager to positively engage with you.

The tough love dilemma

When your son was a toddler, it was second nature to scoop him up and hug him when he was upset or made a mistake. While you should, of course, still hug your teen, the idea of rescuing him when he’s in trouble should be one you distance yourself from. It can be hard to watch our children experience difficulties. We want to jump in and resolve it all for them to make their lives easier.

As a parent, this is not always the best course of action to take. Your teen son needs guidance, love, and support no matter the difficulty he’s struggling with, but he also needs to discover his ability to cope, fix things, and be held accountable. If we get involved and attempt to fix something to make it go away, we essentially deprive our kids of developing those much-needed problem-solving skills.

For example, if your son forgot to finish a big project or neglected to get a permission slip signed, is it your responsibility to resolve it for him? Or is the better course of action to allow him to face the consequences of his behavior? It can feel awful to watch him have to face extra homework or detention at school, particularly if he reacts with strong emotions, but it gives him the opportunity to have confidence in himself when it comes to resolving issues.

Consider if your teen isn’t wearing his seatbelt while he’s driving, or if he runs a red light and gets a ticket. The rules are established, and he chose to break the rules. The consequences may not be enjoyable for anyone in the family, but your son will be learning what accountability looks like.

When a parent steps in to play the role of rescuer, it can inadvertently communicate that their parents don’t find them capable of dealing with challenges. Your son may start to doubt his ability to handle challenges independently, and he may expect that other people will take care of things so that he doesn’t need to. He’ll learn how to dodge difficult situations, and he won’t learn how to face them down and take accountability.

Allow him to be responsible for both the positive and the poor decisions that he has made. It can feel cruel as a parent to watch your son need to use his own money to pay off a ticket. It is just one way that he will learn and adapt. Consequences are just a part of life, and we all need to face them at some point.

Correct his behavior when you have the opportunity without criticizing him. If your son is being disrespectful or heading down a scary path, you can step in with verbal warnings that may help to guide him better.

Is your son struggling to find his way? Get him the help that will address underlying issues that could be contributing to his poor decision-making. A therapeutic boarding school with licensed psychiatrists, therapists, and nurses available can provide the solution your family needs.

Call Liahona Treatment Center to learn more about how he can benefit.

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