A Lesson from a Five year old: Accountability

Getting Schooled by a Kid

I was playing with a 5 year old the other day when I had to interrupt our playing to take care of something important. I told her I was sorry, but we needed to take a break so I could go lift. In return for her understanding, I promised her that we would start playing again as soon as I was finished.

When I told her that, she looked at me with this funny expression and did something that surprised me…

She stopped, and put her hand on my shoulder. Looking up at me with a serious face she told me, “You don’t have to promise anything, Sarah. Let your no be no and your yes be yes. That’s enough for me.” 

She ran off to play by herself after that, but I stood there looking dumbfounded. I know her words to me were likely something repeated from her parents, but it’s really shocking when a five year old teaches you a new life lesson.

If we were accountable for our words and actions – if yes truly meant yes and no truly meant no – there would be no point to “promise.” We would simple do or not do.

What a valuable concept.

We promise things because our yes doesn’t really mean yes and our no doesn’t really mean no. It’s like saying, “I know I’m a liar some of the time, but this time I want you to trust me.” We don’t lie INTENTIONALLY, but other things get in the way of us being true to our words.

Saying yes to these other things gets us into trouble. I have a problem with overcommitting. I think, “Yeah, I could do that. I could squeeze that in. I could organize that.” But the truth is, I’m a normal person. I can only do so many things in one day. Inevitably, I’ll forget this fact and start letting people down that I care about.

An Admirable Trait: Accountability

Accountability is important to develop trust with other people. When you dictate what you will do with concrete words, you’ve committed yourself to that action. If you don’t want to commit yourself, don’t use concrete words.

An example:

  • Expressing a fact with concrete words: “I will go to the park with you.”
  • Expressing an option (no concrete words): “We might have time to go to the park today. We’ll have to wait and see.”

It’s simple to think about doing this with kids, but adults need it too. Adults are just as likely as a kid to think that you’re de-prioritizing them because they’re not special enough or you’re not trustworthy enough. Both of these assumptions are not great for building strong relationships.

The Solution: Know your Limits

The first step to becoming more accountable is to know yourself and know your limits. It’s okay to say no sometimes. You don’t have to be all things for all people. You can be somethings for some people. How about that?

Know your limits. You can’t be perfect. But, neither can anyone else – so you’re not alone.

Let your no be no and your yes be yes. If something happens to take away from that, realize we’re all human and these things happen. We can forgive them and move past it.

How can you be more accountable?

4 thoughts on “A Lesson from a Five year old: Accountability

  1. Matthew 5:33-37 :-)

    I remember reading this for the first time last spring and being surprised by the reality of this issue! Thanks for the blog Sarah, love reading it!

  2. This was so fantastic! I think everybody has at least some problems with being held accountable! This one applies a lot to me!! Thanks girl! It was a good one!

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