Accountability Example #1
A Sample Conversation about Beginning the Accountability Stage
Before I talk through a sample dialogue in this video, I want to clarify a few thoughts:
When you have a conversation with your child about this transition towards letting your child set some of his or her own limits, it’s pretty likely that your child will display what I call the Woohoo!! effect. This is a reaction similar to whatever your happy dance looks like when YOU hear some great news. Many parents feel alarmed by their child’s excitement about being in charge of some decision making, but think about it...it IS exciting! So celebrate with your child.
As part of this little celebration, send a clear message about why you’re transitioning towards shifting some of the rule-setting to your child...make no mistake: mom and dad are NOT just getting “easy” on you and letting you do what you want. But rather mom and dad have an important job to prepare you to be a mature teen and adult someday who is good at using your whole brain to decide what to do everyday and we think you are getting mature enough to start practicing how to use more of your growing brain. It actually won’t be easier to make your own decisions...it takes more responsibility than before, but we think you’re ready for that. And don’t worry about making mistakes because mom and dad are still here to watch out for you and support you as you need it.
After having a conversation similar to the one I’m about to share on the next slide--and even if your child reacts with a bit of a seemingly scary or immature “woohoo” about the prospect of deciding a few of the rules--you should also be able to tell if your child feels the weight of being in charge of the outcomes, or natural consequences, of his or her choices as well. Remember that taking note of outcomes is an ACC role and you should be able to sense if your child understands a least a little about the magnitude of responsibility that comes with deciding his or her own rules. If it doesn’t feel like the OUTCOME potential is sinking it at all, your child might still be too moment to moment to take on much real accountability in regards to setting his or her own limits.
And that’s okay...by all means spend more time in the attachment and following stages.
One final note: In the potential conversation I’m about to share, there’s a moment when the parent apologizes to the child for any difficult past moments. Even the most mindful parent is going to have rough moments that leave scars in a child’s mind and heart. By including an apology, I’m not suggesting that we as parents are doing a bad job and should try harder to be perfect. That’s not realistic. But rather, I’m suggesting that because life is tough and because children are innocent, every child can benefit from feeling the unnecessary burden of childhood guilt lifted from his or her shoulders by a loving parent. An apology is intended to help an accountability stage child begin his or her new journey of maturity with a fresh and clean start that’s not bogged down with emotional baggage from the past. Keep in mind that an apology is particularly important--and will likely need to be repeated many more times--if you did not spend years and years using the attachment and following mindsets leading up to this accountability stage.
Using pictures that I’ll place at the end of this video **see illustration options below**, here’s a sample dialogue. You’ll hear a more detailed version than what you see on the slide. Ponder it all until it feels natural and unique to you and your child:
Speaking to my child I might say:
Brain growth is responsible for your behavior. When you were born, your brain was not fully developed. As you get older your brain should develop to the point of becoming an adult who can do many things.
Do you remember much about being a baby? What do you think is the most important thing for an infant to learn?
Child might say: eating, talking, crawling, etc
Then I’d say: You’re right, babies have a long ways to go. And since an infant can’t take care of itself, we think of babies being in the attachment stage and the most important thing for babies to learn is to feel safe with and trust mom and dad. That’s why we spent lots of time holding you and helping you when you were a baby.
Then when you were a little older, we recognized that you needed to explore and play A LOT! Do you remember some games you enjoyed playing when you were little? We call those next several years the Following Stage because your brain just wanted to see the world and do whatever you saw around you. I remember that you helped us with our chores and were very good at copying us! And we enjoyed playing with you, too. We also watched you when you were playing on your own or with others and we helped you set wise limits to keep you safe without making you worry too much about problems that came up. Can you think of a time when we helped you know what to do?
Child may share an embarrassing or traumatic moment.
It’s normal for young kids to get really upset about things and feel bad about tough situations--that’s a good sign that the emotional part of your brain is working well (middle area in the brain picture). But did you know it wasn’t your job, yet, to feel responsible for any mistakes you might have made? Since your prefrontal cortex wasn’t very connected yet, it was mommy and daddy’s responsibility to help you make good decisions and fix problems. Sometimes we struggled too when you were little and we’re sorry if we ever didn’t take care of you enough or help you as you needed. It’s not easy being a parent or a kid. But it IS important that you understand now that even if things didn’t always go well, YOU were always innocent all those years.
But now you’re 7 and you’re starting to think more about being grown up aren’t you? You’re entering what we call the accountability stage. In just a few years you’ll be a teenager who is old enough and smart enough to be much more in charge of yourself than you are now. What are some things you see teenagers do that seem pretty grown up? Yep, they take hard classes in high school, they have jobs, and they drive cars--all without mom or dad helping very much anymore. That’s a lot of responsibility isn’t it? We call the teenage years the self-discipline and independent stages because they do so many things on their own.
So between now and then, guess what you get to start learning if you want to be grown up, too? You get to start practicing making your own choices in our home so that you’ll be more ready to make big choices away from our home when you’re a teenager. What do you think would happen if a teenager wanted to make their own choices, but didn’t trust their parents’ guidance or didn’t understand what good and bad choices are? Yep...teenage years can be extra tough if teen brains aren’t prepared for the challenge of making mindful, healthy choices. To have a healthy brain, you’ll need brain balance.
So we want to help prepare your brain for balance in the years ahead. Are you ready? Let’s talk about what it means to be accountable:
Do you know what natural consequences are? They are things that happen after choices are made. They work a lot like gravity...they just happen based on choices we make...
Let’s talk about the natural consequences of the choices you’d like to make on your own and if we feel like you understand them, we can let you practice being in charge of those decisions.
And--Part of taking accountability for some of your decisions involves meeting with us often so we can talk about how it’s going. Are you okay with that? Let’s talk about what a mentor meeting is like…
Look at this circle...it’s called the mentoring cycle. It basically means that you and I both observe your behaviors and take notes. Then we meet often--maybe every day or two at first, but then likely every week or so. We talk about the notes we’ve taken and discuss how your decision making is going. Then we set new goals to focus on in the coming week. It’s in the shape of a circle because we will continue the pattern for many many years over and over again to talk about how you’re doing. Does that sound reasonable?
It’s important for you to understand that you’ll be responsible for whatever decisions we’ve agreed to let you decide during our mentor meetings, which means we won’t stop you from making a poor decision and you’ll have to live with that consequence. Is that okay with you?
Then let’s set a time for our first mentor meeting...how about this Sunday? Be thinking about which decisions you feel ready to practice making on your own.
Continue to explore more accountability mindset videos if you need to gain a clearer vision of how you can talk with your accountability stage child. Ponder it all until it feels natural to you.