Teaching Children About Accountability

Mormon FamilyThe home is the perfect schoolroom for values, since they aren’t often taught in school. Many families hold a weekly family night to share their values with their children.

Learn how to hold a family night.

Following is a family night based on the value of accountability that can be taught by people of any Christian faith.

Advanced preparation: A week before the lesson, give each person in the family a packet. It might have in it a dollar, craft supplies, or a food item. You can give each person the same thing, or vary the offerings. Choose something that could be used to help another person, but doesn’t necessarily have to be used that way. (A dollar could be donated to charity, but could also buy a candy bar for yourself.) Include instructions that say they may decide what to do with the item, but must ask permission first. (This allows you to make sure they don’t do something you don’t allow.) Although they may choose what to do with the item, they are asked to make the best possible use of the item, and the next week they will be asked to account for how they used it during your family night. When they come to you for permission, approve anything that isn’t against your values or unsafe, even if it’s a selfish choice. Do ask, however, if they are certain they’ve made the best possible use of the item. Accept their answer.

Opening: Begin with a prayer and song, or choose another routine you feel comfortable with.

Attention activity: Tell the story of the parable of the talents, found in Matthew 25 in the New Testament of the Bible. Explain to the family each servant was given something and asked to use it. He was then called to account for what he did with it. Each person in the family (including the parents) was given something to use and then account for as well. Ask each family member to account for their use of what they were given. Ask them to explain what they were given, what they did with it, why they chose to do that, and what the results were. Don’t evaluate the results and don’t allow others to do this either.

2. Teach the value: Explain that God has given each of us many gifts. We have the agency (freedom) to do whatever we want with them, but there are consequences to our choices. In addition, someday, God will ask us what we did with what we were given. Ask the family to list some things God has given us that He might want an accounting for. Write the answers on a white board. Why do they think God will want us to account for how we use our gifts? Does it matter if we use them wisely or waste them? Why?

Using the list, select a few and discuss ways a person could exercise wise stewardship over those gifts. Be certain the list includes material items. When you reach that part of the list, return to Matthew 25, but read with the family beginning in verse 35. This discusses the need to care for the poor. Jesus showed us that one way we wisely use our gifts is to share them with those who don’t have as much as we do.

3. Planning to Apply the Value: Share the following information from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.” If your children are older, hand out the material and then read it together. If they are younger, select the points most helpful to them and discuss those.


Here are some ideas to help us remember that we are accountable for our thoughts and actions.

1. Self-ManagementLearn to manage your personal life according to the principle of being accountable.

  • Mental preparation—Pray. Prepare your mind. We will be judged according to our thoughts, desires, and actions. We will receive blessings or punishments according to our thoughts, desires, and actions. Realize that every action and decision has consequences.
  • Pondering—Each time you make a decision, ponder the consequences. Will the decision bring you and your loved ones closer to your Father in Heaven or further away? Decide not on the basis of pleasure or gratification, but rather according to a higher order of living. Don’t deceive yourself with lust; pleasure is short lived.
  • Values—Choose your governing values in life. Be value-centered so that when decision-time comes, you are already disposed to choose the right and act responsibly.
  • Keep a journal—That process reminds us daily that our life is an unfolding book upon whose pages we write our history according to our choices in life. Journal keeping is a process parallel to the Book of Life being kept in heaven out of which mankind will be judged.
  • Study the word of God—Grow in gospel understanding and knowledge. Read the scriptures and the words of the prophets daily to learn what the Lord expects of us and to enjoy the inspiration and motivation that come from the word of God.
  • Remember who you are—Think of yourself as bearing the name of the Savior—do it with honor and accountability. He will one day require an account of how we have born His name..
  • Listen to the Spirit within—Thereby you will know what is right.

2. Establish an environment for proper decision-making.

  • Choose that which edifies—Fill your life with wholesome pastimes and worthy causes. We are all free to do much good. To account for our mortal choices is to account in large part for our decisions in life.
  • Surround yourself with positive reminders—Adorn your environment with appropriate symbols of the gospel…as reminders to be more holy and valiant.
  • Fill leisure hours with uplifting influences—Fill your mind with grand music and uplifting thoughts (purge your hours of the inanity of superficial television programming).

3. Use Church experiences to sharpen your sense of being accountable.

  • Testimony bearing—Bear your testimony regularly—this is a form of accounting to the Lord and to others how grateful you are for His Spirit and for the blessing He grants to you and your loved ones.
  • Interviews—Think of how it would be to account to the Savior for your life’s actions and for all your inner dispositions.

4. Work with others effectively.

  • Responsible leadership—Account to your spouse and loved ones for your behavior by expressing witness of the peace and solace that come from obedience. Alternately, have the courage to say you are sorry for any missteps and that you are committed to doing better.
  • Lessons—Teach accountability to your children through family counsels and family home evening.
  • Praise—Praise others for their good work. Sincere and appropriate praise reinforces good behavior.
  • Help others to understand accountability—A natural consequence often teaches accountability. Except in situations of an immediate, life-threatening prospect, be cautious about interceding in the affairs of others (especially children) to take away the consequence of their action. Often great lessons can be learned from natural consequences.

After discussing this list, go over the items and make sure the children understand the concepts taught. Put accountability in terms of parenting.

Name a family rule. Ask the children why the family has the rule. Then ask what happens if they break the rule. If there are natural consequences to breaking the rule, such as getting burnt if you touch a hot stove, mention those as well. Why do you, as parents, have to punish the children for their wrong choices? What rewards or blessings come from obeying the rule?

Story: Noah’s Ark. Read it with older children. Younger children might enjoy a Noah’s Ark flannel board story. What did Noah tell the people to do? Each person who heard Noah’s preaching had accountability for his choices. What punishment happened if they chose to ignore Noah? What reward came if they listened? Who chose to listen? (Only his family listened.) God is our Heavenly Father. He is perfect, so He is a perfect Father. Why do you think He makes commandments and gives us punishments and rewards? Even though at first we might obey to avoid punishment or to get a reward, what is a better reason to obey the commandments? (Love for God.)

Scripture: John 14:15 (If ye love me, keep my commandments.) Invite your children to discuss what this means and how they can apply it.

Practicing the Value: Select one method mentioned in “What We Need to Know and Do” and make a family plan to put it into practice.

Examples: One suggestion was to keep an accountability journal. Help the children make homemade journals or hand out journals and talk about how to use them.

Another idea was to choose your governing values. Give each child a piece of poster board and various art supplies. Let them make a poster showing their governing values. This is best done after a discussion of this topic, and might even be another family night lesson.

A third idea was to bear testimony of your faith. Give each child a fancy piece of paper, or let them decorate a paper, and write or draw their testimony. Frame it and put it somewhere it can be easily seen.

Encourage your children to report to God each day and account for their obedience to the commandments and for their use of their God-given gifts.

Ask your children to think about how they used their accountability item last week and to decide if they would use it differently now. You may want to repeat the activity if you feel your children didn’t make good choices the first time.

Close with games, songs, and a prayer.

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