Options And Accountability

In order for kids to become productive, responsible adults, they need to learn two things: how to choose among available options and that they are accountable for the choices they make.

Unfortunately, I’m seeing too many adults today who weren’t afforded these lessons in their youth. Consequently, they make poor choices and are typically unwilling to take responsibility for failing to honor their commitments.

Even when they do take responsibility, they don’t change their behavior. Recently, an individual apologized to me two days in a row for the same failure. My response to the second apology was “It’s easy to accept an apology the first time; it is increasingly difficult with repeated occurrences.” 

This individual was not taught to honor the commitments he made, nor was he counseled on how to learn from his mistakes and convert them into productive behaviors. While the fault is not entirely his, as an adult he has a responsibility to fill in the gaps in his education. Let’s face it, regardless of how good parents are at educating their children, they can never cover the full spectrum of situations their kids could possibly face.

Value of options

Laying out options for kids, then allowing them to choose among those options, helps them develop greater awareness of what’s important to them and what isn’t. It also teaches kids how to analyze options before making a decision. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this point.

On Christmas day, a child discovered that she didn’t receive a toy that she wanted. Her parents weren’t aware that she wanted the toy. Her parents told her that she could use some of the money she received at Christmas to buy the toy she wanted. After some consideration, the little girl decided that she didn’t want the toy enough to use her money to purchase it. As a result of this experience, she learned how to differentiate between nice-to-have and highly-prized…a lesson she probably wouldn’t have learned so early if her parents hadn’t afforded her options.

A senior in high school wanted a car. Her parents told her that they’d finance the car for her, but she had to pay them back. Plus she would be responsible for the insurance, maintenance and repairs on her car. The parents laid out options for her including leasing versus buying, what amenities were available as well as the cost of the various amenities. After giving the options some thought the daughter decided to buy based on her intent to keep the car for quite a few years and she went with a more modest version of the model she wanted to help keep her costs down. 

In this example, we see a child learning what options are available, the pros and cons of each option, what is and is not important to her, which will aid her in future decisions.

It would be nice if all choices worked as intended, but we all know that isn’t the case. It hasn’t been for us, and it won’t be for our kids. That’s where the accountability piece comes in.


Kids need to learn that they have to live with the consequences of their choices…a valuable, yet often unpleasant lesson. Part and parcel of teaching them accountability is reminding them that when the choice they made doesn’t serve them well, they can make another choice.

I’ve met far too many adults who feel trapped by their earlier choices whether those choices were job or career related, relationship choices or investment-related choices. By investment, I don’t simply mean stocks and bonds, some are education investments, investments in a home, a too expensive car. Regardless of what goes wrong, kids need to learn how to minimize the cost of their mistake and how to choose more wisely in the future.

What’s this mean for you and your kids?

For you

If you didn’t have the advantage of having learned these lessons from your parents, you can still develop the habit of employing options and accountability for yourself. Here’s how:

Every morning, shortly after rising, place this thought into your subconscious mind: “When faced with a challenge or opportunity, I’m going to determine what options are available to me, the pros and cons of each option, and which of the options best suits my interests and goals.” You’ll find that as situations arise during the day, your subconscious mind will remind you to do the analysis.

Every evening, shortly before retiring, recall your successes that day in using options to help you make better choices. In those instances when you failed to consider options, ask yourself: “What did I learn from this experience? How can I use what I learned to produce better results in the future.”

In a week or two, this will become your default way of thinking. Your subconscious will default to using options and accountability in your decision-making process.

For our kids

One of the natural tendencies that we adults possess, that doesn’t serve us well in dealing with kids, is telling them what to do. Instead of telling them what to do, we need to get in the habit of offering them options, letting them choose, then holding them accountable for their choices. Here are a couple of examples.

Instead of telling kids to clean their room ask them: “Do you prefer to clean your room before heading out to school or when you first get back from school?” Of course, the options must take into consideration the child’s natural tendencies. If they struggle to get up in the morning, then the options might be either immediately upon returning from school or an hour before bedtime.

You can apply the same approach to things they want that you don’t want to spend money on. Offer them a way to earn the money needed, have them set aside 10% or so into savings, with the understanding that they can spend the rest as they see fit i.e. based on what’s important to them. You get the idea. 

Offering kids options and holding them accountable for the choices they make are two of the most precious gifts you can give a child. These are gifts that will last their entire lives.

Click here (opens in a new link) to get future messages delivered directly to your inbox.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

Readers would love to see your thoughts and experiences in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

Follow dfurtwengler:

Latest posts from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *