In early elementary school, I started playing The Blame Game. My parents would confront me about a situation and I would blame someone else or something else for my choices.
My dad’s solution – a song he made up and would sing with enthusiasm: “No more excuses, excuses are useless!” Too embarrassed to stick around, I often missed Dad’s choreographed dance moves. Through my dad’s refusal to accept excuses and his “delightful” little song, I learned to take ownership of my attitude and actions.
As children grow, they often go through periods when they assume shifting blame and making excuses for their behavior will provide a defense in lieu of consequences. If parents want their children to thrive, they must teach children how to take responsibility for their actions.
To teach ownership, parents can take several steps:
- Choose Your Words Wisely. Children receive a mixed message about personal responsibility when they hear parents excuse their own behavior.
- Connect the Dots. Help children see the connection between their actions and their experiences. Tell them, “Because you practiced, you made the goal” or “Because you pulled at the page, the book ripped.”
- Teach Personal Responsibility. When children are upset, do not ask what made them act that way, but why they acted that way. Asking “what” questions, provides the child with a source for placing blame; whereas asking “why” questions allows him to reflect on his choices.
- Make Honesty Easy. Remind the child that everyone makes mistakes at some point, but you are glad she was truthful. Then, discuss how she can make better choices in the future.
- Stick to the Rules. Being consistent in expectations enables children to learn to accept consequences for words, actions and decisions especially regarding lying or blaming.
Ownership is at the heart of so many positive character attributes and by focusing on ownership, parents provide clear expectations for how their child will treat others.
If all else fails, make up a song.
Cloud, H. “Curbing the Blame Game and Getting Rid of Excuses” Retrieved on April 12, 2016 from http://www.thrivingfamily.com/Features/Magazine/2012/curbing-the-blame-game-getting-rid-of-excuses.aspx