by Bec Cavalôt

5 simple ways to teach your son about accountability

My two boys love to play the blame game. It goes something like this:

“I only hit him because he called me an idiot.”

“I only called him an idiot because he broke my toy!”

This game is not fun. It can go on forever. And no one ever wins.

Like me, I’m sure you want your kids (and let’s face it, some of the adults in your life) to stop blaming and take responsibility for their own behaviour and actions.

But accountability – teaching your son to admit and face his own mistakes instead of blaming – is hard. For him and for you.

Why accountability is important

If it’s so hard, why even bother teaching kids to hold themselves accountable?

Because accountability is the cornerstone of trust, and trust is the foundation that strong social relationships are built on. Your son exists in a world where he can’t avoid being ‘in relationship’ with others. The ability to hold himself accountable will help make those relationships healthier and more productive for everyone involved. 

Here are 5 tips to help you teach your son about accountability.

1. Start teaching accountability early

The sooner you start teaching your son about accountability, the easier it will be to ingrain it as a habit. Teaching your young son to be responsible can be as simple as having him put away his toys before he goes to bed, or teaching him to say sorry if he hurts someone at the playground.

2. Be consistent in words and actions

It’s easy to tell your son to do his chores or homework. But what happens when he doesn’t follow through?

Teach your son that your words aren’t just lip service. Sit down together and set clear and consistent expectations and consequences that you can both stick to. What works will depend on your son. If my older son feeds the dog late, he’s on poop scooping duty the next day. My screen-obsessed younger son loses 15 minutes of iPad time if he doesn’t empty the dishwasher.

3. Don’t make excuses for your child

Making excuses when your son’s done the wrong thing teaches him that he doesn’t need to take responsibility for his own actions and behaviours. Because you’ll always be there to bail him out.

Instead, teach him to admit his mistakes and take steps to prevent them from happening again. There’s nothing wrong with helping your son problem-solve. If he keeps forgetting to do his homework, ask him what might help him remember (setting an alarm, creating a schedule and putting it on the fridge) then get him to take the action.

4. Be an accountability role model

Your son is constantly watching how you show up in the world, so teach him to be responsible by showing him how it’s done. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, admit when you’ve made a mistake, apologise and tell him what you’re going to do better next time.

5. Avoid shame at all costs

Fear of being shamed is often why your son chooses blame over taking responsibility for his actions. As Dr Brené Brown says, “You can’t shame people into being better”. Mistakes can’t be learning opportunities when shame is involved.

Before you have a tough conversation with your son, emphasise that he is loved and that nothing he says or does can ever change that. Tell him that mistakes are normal and that we all make them. And talk about the action or behaviour, not the person. This helps your son separate who he is from his mistake, keeps shame out of the picture, and shows your son that he is safe to take responsibility for his actions in the future. 

Learning to be responsible takes time. Set you and your son up for success by seeing your accountability journey as just that. Celebrate the steps forward, and if you stray off the path, simply notice and course correct. The destination will be worth it.


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Bec Cavalôt is a Melbourne-based writer, and mum of two beautiful, boisterous boys. You can find her at This article is about


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