Every parent must at some point deal with a child who plays the blame game. Whether it’s accusing a playmate, a brother, a sister, the teacher, and sometimes even an inanimate object like their teddy bear – every kid plays the blame game. According to our kids it’s never their fault when the window gets broken, books suddenly have pages torn out, or their sisters Barbie turns up bald.
It was no different in our household. If anything it was harder to know who was lying and who was telling the truth since we had 5 children. Blaming someone or something else is often a common avoidance technique. By pointing the finger towards another sister my girls thought they could avoid punishment.
I believe teaching our children to take responsibility for their own mistakes is essential to their development and growth to become more mature, responsible adults.
Here are 4 ways you can teach your child to take responsibility for their actions.
Stop the Cycle of Blaming
Be mindful of the way you communicate blame to your child. For example when you say, “Can you help fold the laundry?” “You hurt my feelings when you brake things.” or “Don’t you care?” we are, maybe not intentionally, but to a child’s perspective blaming them.
Here’s a tip to stop the blaming cycle. Substitute the word “you” with “I” so instead you might say: “I can use some help.” “I feel hurt when things get broken.” and “I don’t feel loved right now.” Making changes such as this, while small, can go a long way towards creating a safe environment where children can listen and learn to readjust their behaviors.
Explain the Big Picture
Show your child the bigger picture by explaining how our actions are connected and have consequences, bad or good. Show these connections to your child with some examples. For instance, “You got to watch an extra hour of TV, because you cleaned your room before dinner.” This way your child realizes that both positive and negative actions have consequences, punishment or rewards.
If your youngster has been doing something amiss, show them exactly what the consequences are and what they did wrong. If he or she blames someone or something else, strengthen the “big picture” by explaining again what he or she did to deserve punishment. And once punishment has been given, ask them to tell you exactly what happened and why they were punished.
For instance: Tommy was playing in his room alone with his baseball, which he knows is against the house rules. The ball hits a window breaking it, but Tommy contends that someone else who must have been outside broke it. Calmly take Tommy to the “time out chair” and ask him to tell you what happened. If he tells you again someone other than himself broke the window reveal to him that he is going into time-out for ten minutes because he, not someone outside, threw his baseball in the house breaking the window.
Explain that you know it had been him and that he needs to take responsibility for his actions since the window is broken from the inside of the house not outside. Ask Tommy to inform you again of what happened after his time-out is over. When he finally relents and tells you that it was him that broke the window, thank him for telling the truth.
Don’t make it hard for your kids to come tell you the truth. It’s crucial you remain calm and in control of yourself. If you lose your temper and yell at your children, they’re more likely to be afraid of coming clean about the truth. It’s hard on our kids to come clean sometimes so be sure to remind them that no matter what, you always love them.
While this isn’t going to keep them from being punished, your teaching them understanding in that you love them and their honesty is important.
Consistency is the most important way of teaching your children. Be firm and consistent, don’t make the mistake of punishing your child for something one day and the next time letting that same infraction slip by without consequences.
Have a family plan, be clear and concise, especially about punishments. Stick to that plan, otherwise your just teaching your child that they can play the blame game and sometimes get away with it.
Taking responsibility for our actions is a very important lesson to learn – for everyone. I know it’s frustrating dealing with avoidance techniques that our children may have pick up, but with a little patience we can teach our children to take responsibility and stop playing the blame game.
Ultimately by teaching your children responsibility for their actions your raising someone who will be trustworthy and more respectful to others.
Photo Credit: Bessi