At some point in their childhood, every child finds a way to get out of trouble. Whether it is blaming a sibling, a playmate, or even an inanimate object like a stuffed animal – every child, it seems, plays the blame game.
Blaming someone or something else is a classic avoidance technique. If your child can pass the blame off on another party, he or she thinks they can avoid any negative consequences.
Teaching your child to take responsibility for their own mistakes is crucial to their development. Not only will they make more friends when they reach school age, but children that learn to take responsibility for their actions grow into more mature, responsible adults.
Here are some tips to help you teach your child to take responsibility for their actions:
Point Out the Big Picture
To help your child learn to connect the dots that their actions have consequences, start by pointing out the big picture to them. Explain how all actions have consequences, good or bad. Make some of these connections for your child.
For example, point out some everyday connections such as, “You ate all of your vegetables, so you can have a scoop of ice cream.” This way your child understands that both positive and negative actions have consequences.
Punish and Reinforce
If your child has done something wrong, explain to them what they did wrong and what the consequences are. If they then blame someone or something else, reinforce the “big picture” by explaining again what he or she did to actively deserve punishment. Then, once punishment has been administered, ask the child to reiterate what happened and why they were punished.
For example: Suzy was playing in her room alone and drew on the walls with crayons, but insists that it was her dolly. Calmly take Suzy to the “time out corner” and ask her again what happened. If she repeats that it was her dolly that drew on the walls, explain to her that she is going to time out for ten minutes because she, not her dolly, drew on the walls.
Explain that you know it was her because her dolly is not able to color on the walls by itself, and that she needs to take responsibility for her actions. After the time out is over, ask Suzy to tell you again what happened. When she finally relents and tells you that it was she that colored the walls, thank her for telling you the truth.
Keep Your Cool
You want your child to feel comfortable coming to you and telling you the truth, so it is imperative that you remain calm and collected. If you lose your cool and yell or scream at your child, they are going to be afraid to come clean. Always let your child know that no matter what they’ve done, you love them regardless.
This isn’t going to get them out of punishment, but they will know that you love them and appreciate their honesty. Learning to take responsibility for one’s actions is an important childhood lesson. You might be frustrated with the avoidance techniques that your child has picked up, but with patience you can teach your child to take responsibility and stop playing the blame game.