The other day my 18 month old son, who – if you follow me on social media know – I lovingly refer to as TRex, threw his food on the floor. Cause you know… that’s what toddlers do. We’re timeout parents, and as this was the umpeenth time throwing his food at dinner, he went to timeout. What followed next though is what I believe to be the most important part of the lesson; my wife and I make TRex pick up his food and assist in cleaning.
Because right now, this is what accountability means to us.
As an adult the concept of accountability seems pretty straight forward: Do you own your actions? Can I depend on you? But how do you teach these ideas to a toddler?
And that’s why we make TRex pick up his food.
What we’re hoping he’ll learn is that it’s ok to make a mess of things, literal or figurative, but the important part is to accept the consequences, and then to own the responsibility of remedying the situation. For those old enough to remember VHS, remember when you had to rewind the tape prior to returning a rented movie? It’s like that. Sort of.
At 18 months I’m unsure whether or not our intended lessons stick with him. I think they are. I do know that he will help clean up his general mess after he eats (he sees us do it), or if he makes a mess and we’re not in the room, he’ll come and tell us about it; generally in the form of “Uh oh! Eeeeeeeeee!”.
As he gets older the way the lessons are implemented, and the actual lessons themselves, will evolve to fit his personality and my/our way of thinking, but the end goal will always be the same – to raise a son who strives to fulfill his duties to the people who depend on him to fulfill said duties, whatever they may be.
Side story: Ironically, I completely forgot that it was my week to write and am frantically writing this before I go to bed. Accountability. Go figure.