Teaching Your Child Responsibility and Personal Accountability

As parents, we would all like to see our children develop into independent, responsible individuals. To ensure that your child has the best possible start, responsibility development must begin in the home. Perhaps you have already established a set of rules that your entire family abides by, or maybe you have created a list of chores with your child. What do you do when your child misbehaves and continually makes excuses for his/her actions? There are a few ways that you can counter this cycle.

First of all, recognize when your child is doing well. Reward your child for accepting responsibility for his/her behavior. Possible rewards include verbal praise, hugs, kisses, and letting your child have a friend over.

Carefully consider your child’s age before expecting your child to be completely honest about his/her behavior. Do you best not to compare your child to other children his/her age, as children learn responsibility in their own way, at different times and at different ages.

Be conscious of your own behavior, and set a good example for your child to follow. Be honest about your own behavior and do not make excuses.

When your child makes excuses for a behavior, calmly confront him/her with the facts. Encourage an open and honest line of communication between everyone in your home.

Do not make your child fearful of telling the truth even though you will not be happy about the behavior. Make sure your child understands that you will be supportive and understanding in any situation, they need to feel safe coming to you, even when they are wrong.

Make sure your child knows what is expected of him/her at all times.

If contracts work with your child, sit down and create one. You and your child can write out what is expected of him/her. Allow your child to decorate and color the contract, then display it in his/her room.

Make certain that your child sees the relationship between his/her behavior and the consequences which follow.

Do not cause your child to have to make excuses for hi/her behavior by giving your child something too difficult to do.

When introducing a new responsibility to your child, demonstrate how to perform the task several times before expecting your child to do it on his/her own.

Explain to your child the difference between “making excuses” about his/her behavior and giving a legitimate reason why he/she behaved in a certain way.

Make certain your child has all the materials necessary to successfully perform the responsibility, chores, etc.

Encourage your child to ask for your help whenever it is needed, and when your child comes to you, take time to handle their concerns immediately without making excuses or postponing.

Supervise your child’s responsibilities, chores, etc., in order to be more aware of when your child needs your assistance.

Help your child to feel comfortable coming to you for assistance with a problem by listening to him/her and helping with a solution to the problem.

Do not become upset or angry when your child does something wrong. Help your child understand what he/she did wrong by talking calmly about the problem. If you get angry with your child, he/she will try to make excuses for hi/her behavior.

Be consistent with your child. Do not discipline one time for misbehavior and tolerate misbehavior the next time.

Do not accept excuses. Your child must understand that, regardless of the reason, it is necessary that he/she takes responsibility for leaving the toy outside last night, for forgetting to let in the dog, etc.

Attempt to have an open and honest relationship with your child with your child. Encourage your child to tell the truth and do not use threats to make him/her tell the truth.

Do not put your child in a situation where he/she feels that making excuses is necessary.

Avoid arguing with your child about whether or not he/she is making excuses, simply explain that he/she is not being completely honest about a situation.

Make certain your child learns that excuses do not reduce responsibilities.

Make certain that expectations for your child’s chores, responsibilities, etc., are within his/her developmental level and abilities.

Make certain that when consequences are delivered for inappropriate behavior, they are not extreme and are directly related to the inappropriate behavior.

Avoid arguing with your child about whether he is telling you the truth. If you do not have proof, it is better to avoid blaming someone who is innocent.

Always make certain that you determine the accuracy of your child’s claim that something caused him/her to have a problem or failure. In some cases, someone or something may legitimately be causing your child to experience problems or failures.

Make certain your child understands that not being honest when confronted will result in more negative consequences than telling the truth. Be certain to be consistent in this approach.

Make certain your child knows what the consequences will be in your home for making excuses for his/her behavior.

Make certain that baby-sitters, grandparents, and visitors in your home, etc., are aware of your child’s tendency to make excuses for his/her behavior and the importance of maintaining consistency in the discipline of your child.

Talk with your child. Communication is key in parenting. Explain to your child how making excuses for poor behavior can be damaging, and why being honest about behavior is so important. Remember to parent in a loving, understanding, and patient manner.

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