Once upon a time, my daughter was jumping around on my bed. She knows this is something I don’t want her to do. I asked her to stop. Seconds later, her brother starts to climb on the bed to do the same thing. Rather than stopping, she gave me the dreaded “but Micah’s doing it.” Micah is her younger brother, a toddler. I reminded her to worry about her own behavior and removed both of them from the bed. Kids sometimes have a hard time “owning up” to their actions. Here are a few tips on how to teach children to take responsibility for their actions.
Stopping the Blame Game
My sister and I were about four and a half years apart. We hardly ever fought. However, one time I had some open nail polish remover on a coffee table and she knocked it over. It took the varnish off the table. We went back and forth over whose fault it was. I said she knocked it over. She said it was my fault for leaving the cap off. If I was more mature, I would have simply taken responsibility for my actions. In the case when two kids are fighting or siblings break something due to rough housing, it’s important for parents to stop the blame game. According to parents.com, parents shouldn’t “play judge and jury; just make sure your child understands that no matter what another kid does he’s still responsible for his actions.” In addition, you can have children come up with ideas of how to prevent this same type of accident in the future.
Telling the Truth
Sometimes my daughter will say pushing down her brother was an accident when it obviously wasn’t. Obviously, she doesn’t want to suffer any consequences. However, this also stems from not wanting to be at fault or wrong. Asking, “are you sure it was an accident” is a good way to give the child another chance to tell the truth. Parents Magazine also suggests to “try a non-accusatory statement such as: “That’s an interesting explanation, but I’m waiting to hear what actually happened.”
You Are Not a Victim
Children need to learn not to play the victim. Some kids, and adults, act as if their problems are everyone else’s fault. For instance, if they are not doing well at school, it’s the teacher’s fault. Another excuse may be “But, Susie made me do it.” Playing the victim will not help the child later in life. In fact, playing the victim can prevent your child from getting a job or succeeding in the “real world.”
Let Kids Know You Still Love Them
Sometimes kids don’t want to admit a fault because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. My husband and I often say to our daughter, “I’m not happy with what you did, but I love you and always will.” You can say this even after handing out a consequence.
The Plight of the Older Sibling
Older siblings have it rough because they are supposed to set an example for the younger sibling(s). According to Joseph Hotz, an economics professor at Duke University, ” by punishing the oldest kid more severely, parents are hoping to essentially scare the younger brothers and sisters straight, keeping them from making a similar mistake.” Even though I’m not trying to intimidate my younger child, I think I do hold my eldest to a higher standard. Still, older siblings can’t be held responsible for everything the younger sibling does. Thus, although I will still enforce the “take responsibility for your actions” mantra, I also won’t blame my daughter for my youngest’s behavior.
Teaching kids to take responsibility for their actions isn’t easy. It’s not something that will happen overnight. Still, it’s an important characteristic to instill in your children.
More from Melissa:
10 Life Skills All Children Should Learn
Inexpensive Activities for when Your Kids Are Driving You Crazy
Irritable Children? How to Banish a Case of the ‘Grumpies’ in Your Home