A Story of Accountability
What’s the old saying….everything you need to know you learned in Kindergarten? So maybe it’s not everything you get from Kindergarten, but I still think all the lessons we learn as a child shape who we are, our sense of accomplishment, responsibility, work ethic, and everything else we grow up to be. For that reason, I feel it’s important for my kids to learn key life lessons early on to develop the right habits.
We have a rule in my house that when you get home from school, it’s homework first then its play if time permits. It has always been the rule and really has always been followed….until one day when my son was in 5th grade and we were getting ready to leave for school in the morning and he says “mom can you sign this paper?” As he hands me the paper I see that it indicates that he was supposed to work on a project and do a reading assignment with me. I handed him back the paper and said “nope, I’m not signing this because this didn’t happen.” He was NOT happy and with the irritated voice says “come on, my grade is going to go down then.” As much as I didn’t like to see his grades drop I still said “sorry, you should’ve thought about that last night when you should’ve been working on this and said you didn’t have any homework.” He stomped out of the room with what I can only imagine to be the thoughts he had running through his head about me. But from that moment he knew he would not be coming to me to lie for him or skip out on work. The rest of 5th, even 6th grade went well and he managed to get great grades throughout. This year he is now in 7th grade which has been a big transition, a rite of passage, that requires him to be more responsible and take ownership of his own work and grades as there is a lot less parental visibility to each of the assignments. Overall he’s a great kid and even a great student….but sometimes he gets a little lazy as most kids do at times. Whenever I start to notice his grades dropping it is never because he got a bad grade on an assignment, it’s because he either turned it in late or didn’t turn it in at all which is not acceptable in our house. So yesterday I pulled up his campus portal to find three assignments that weren’t turned in over the last month, therefore causing him to have a C in class when he is fully capable of much higher! Much to his dismay, I called him to come home from his friend’s house and let him know he can play once he completes all of his missed assignments. The grumblings started and the tone of voice changed as he said “mom I can’t get credit or any points for missed assignments now.” With a calm demeanor I simply replied, “The purpose of the assignments is about the learning and you are still going to do the assignments and learn. Stinks for you that you won’t get any points but hopefully you’ll realize next time that cutting corners won’t save you work so you might as well do it right the first time through so you can learn AND get your points.” Oh the look on his face was priceless and I could insert all kinds of choice words that I’m certain he was thinking about me….but he got the message!
My daughter, who is in Kindergarten, is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Not only does she not have to be told to do homework but she asks to do it, then asks for more! She completes everything her teacher assigns her then comes home to voluntarily work on a 1st grade curriculum book simply because she likes to do it. She reads book after book then wants to play on any learning app she can find on the Ipad. She’s “that person” we all know that is always the overachiever wanting to learn more, do more, and genuinely enjoys the concept of learning.
My kids are different, yet neither are better or worse than the other and neither are more or less capable than the other. They are both very smart, very talented, and have equal potential to be the best they can be. Will there ever be another time that he slacks in something again or that my daughter may end up doing the same at some point? Probably! They are kids and kids do things like that sometimes so it doesn’t even make me angry. Part of growing up is to test the limits, make mistakes, and make some less than great choices. But part of growing up is to also learn from those mistake and choices and in order for a kid to learn about behaviors and consequences they have to see consequences! The anger towards their ‘pain in the butt’ mother who won’t let them cut corners will go away, but the life lesson will remain and they will better prepare themselves the next time. THAT is the value of accountability.
The story of my two kids is much like being a leader in a company and working with employees. Everyone is different and has different skills and needs different levels of guidance and development. There are those self-motivated individuals that will always rise to the top and over achieve because that’s simply who they are. There are also those just as capable of rising to the top as the highly motivated self-starter. Sometimes people just need a little extra nudge, attention, and the accountability to reach that potential. As parents or as leaders it is our responsibility to not only support our kids and employees in their goals, but to hold them accountable to reaching that potential! Accountability is not a bad thing. It’s what helps us grow and tells us that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed and, likewise, mediocrity or lack of effort doesn’t go unnoticed either. People need to know that when they aren’t doing something at the expected level it is noticed in order to feel reward and a true sense of accomplishment when they get recognition for doing something great. As the mother of two kids, and a leader in my company, I am constantly trying to help develop people and get results in the right way which isn’t always the easy way. In both management and parenting you have to help teach people lessons, recognize their greatness, help them become better, and yes hold them accountable along the way!