Enough Excuses Take Responsibility
Put your hands down and repeat after me... Enough Excuses! Take Responsibility!
Making good choices and taking responsibility for your actions are discussed, or as my kids would likely say, lectured on, a lot in our house. Typically, when a sentence starts with "Well..." I know a big fact excuse is coming after it. So I listen patiently, sometimes with my hands on my hips, waiting to hear the one they are going to come up with.
I can see my grandmother now, her hands on her hips like me, staring me in the eyes, which I tried to avoid out of guilt, and hear her words "What do you have to say for yourself?" What did that question teach me as a child? What I did was wrong, I better not have a lame excuse for my actions, admit it, take my punishment, and learn from it.
What did that question teach me as a parent?
First let me add the disclaimer that I am NOT a perfect parent, nor claim to be a parenting expert. These are from our personal experiences, and likely from mistakes we've made as parents, especially with the first of our five children. The firsts are usually the guinea pigs aren't they? Sorry Son, no excuse, I take full responsibility!
- Lead by example. By this I mean as the parent, don't make excuses for your own behavior. They ARE listening, watching, and oh yes, following your examples of behavior. So try owning up to it as you expect them to do. "I don't know why I just did that.", "There is no excuse for what I did or said.", "Boy, I messed up with that one, didn't I?", "That was my fault and I apologize.". This also validates that, yes, people do make mistakes, but it is important to take responsibility for those mistakes.
- Making good choices in the first place. We all teach our children to make the right, good, moral, ethical choices. Or at least we hope we do. How many times do we say, "What were you thinking?" This happens quite a bit in our house. We talk about particular situations and taking the "right" road or the "wrong" road. Usually after something has happened, we talk about what would have been the better choice to have made in that situation and we hope they learn from the experience. For some children this comes easier than it does for others. Therefore, when we are aware of a situation our children are going into we explain "good" vs. "bad" choices and what the consequences or outcomes will be for each. Therefore, there should be no excuse if you opted for the "wrong" choice.
- Consequences for actions. In life, there are always consequences for our actions. It is important that children learn this early on. This goes hand in hand with the above. Explaining the consequences ahead of time, or setting rules, punishments, whatever you like to label them, for negative actions or behaviors. The most important thing to remember is to stick to it. Not accepting excuses (unless it is truly valid), not excusing their behavior and doling out the consequence consistently. This should also apply for rewards. Good choices and behaviors should be rewarded. I'm not talking about running to the toy store every time they do the right thing or behave at Aunt Sue's boring tea. Validating their actions, admiring them for their good behavior, being proud that they made the right choice.
- Placing blame where it belongs. "She did it!" or "Well, (there's an excuse coming) he hit me first!" This is where the EOE(Equal Opportunity Excuse) comes in. Let's back up to the beginning and one at a time, tell me what happened. Once each version is spewed forth and the excuses fly, we get to the root of the problem. Why did you hit her? She took my toy and wouldn't give it back. Was it right to hit her? No. No, is right, we do not hit. Now apologize for hitting her. (I usually have to repeat this a few times as they are giving each other the evil eye). Since this is an EOE situation, I move on to the next one. Why did you take his toy? (After many I don't know's, I finally get truth) I wanted to make him mad. Why would you want to make him mad? Because he's playing too loud and it was annoying me. So by taking his toy away that made him stop annoying you? Yes. No. You could have asked him to stop or you could have went and played somewhere else, right? I guess. Apologize for taking his toy away. (I wait patiently) and wrap it up, also you need to apologize for hitting him too. It usually comes out grumbled. However, my deed is done as I turn to leave, I remind them to play nice or else.
Parents Making Excuses For Their Child's Behavior
No Excuses! You have to make your children take responsibility for their actions. Parents who excuse their childs behavior, usually begin their excuse the same way that children do "Well..." or "He does that because...". This is where the parent needs to take responsibility for their parenting. Sometimes, there are legitimate excuses and yes, your child may need your intervention on his/her behalf. Only if there is a valid reason behind his/her actions. This is where you need to back up and ask two questions:
- What happened?
Some things there just are NO Excuses for and they need to know exactly that. "There is no excuse for that behavior."
What happened to the old adage "Two wrongs don't make a right."? Because they learned or mimic someone else's bad behavior doesn't have to be tagged with an excuse. As a parent, doing this is only condoning your child's actions, not setting limitations, and gives them an obviously valid excuse to use many times in the future.
How many times have we heard, "Well, (excuse coming...) so and so does it." My response usually is "I'm not so and so's parent, I'm your parent and I say No."
Excusing The Special Needs Child
The inspiration for this Hub actually came about from a wonderful comment made by, Richard Armen on one of my other Hubs The Gift of ADHD. He made a very valid point and you can read his comment on that Hub.
Parents of Special Needs children know that there is a very fine line that is easily crossed as we want to jump to the defense of our children. And we should, because if we don't, who will?
However, that having been said, we go back to that fine line. Let me give you two examples which have recently come up in our wacky world:
One of my children, while at school, offered to show his manliness in a male bragging rights sort of way. The principal happened to be standing outside the bathroom while this conversation was going on. This is one of those after school, principal making a bee-line towards me, don't run, situations. After we had a laugh about it, yes the principal was actually doubled over with laughter. I asked, your not going to laugh when you have a talk with him are you? (Don't get me wrong , I adore this man. An amazing gift for our little school) And No, he didn't laugh. And rightly so. Not appropriate conversation for a boy his age and certainly not at school. No excuse! Take your lumps and learn from it. (Keeping my fingers crossed)
Second scenario, while an authority figure at school was trying to talk with my child, he was in constant motion, either walking in small circles or shuffling, shifting and not making eye contact. (Common behaviors of ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) Threats were made that if he didn't stop moving, look this person in the eye, he would be in trouble, because he "wasn't listening". Now, knowing my child as I do, I actually knew that indeed he was listening, often movement (external stimuli) increases their level of concentration. Also he's been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and movement provides comfort, like nail biting, or lighting up when you are stressed. Excuses? Nope, facts, and up to this point I have not used the words "Well" or "Because". So I made a point of asking, Son, are you listening? Yes. The authority figure then told him to stop and make eye contact. He complied, a few seconds later his eyes dropped to the ground and the shuffling, moving, shifting began again.
Knowing that this is a behavior that is not meant as defiance or "bad", I intervened. My arm around his shoulder, (anyone who understands the disorder well, knows that "touch" is a focus enhancer) I stood next to him, facing this figure and said we're listening, aren't we son? Yes. I almost got an eye roll from this figure and had to smile (who's being defiant now?). So this person went on for a little bit, explaining proper choices, which were indeed valid, and finished each sentence with did you hear me? Or do you understand? Sheepishly he answered, Yes. This figure then asked him to repeat what he had been told. To this persons surprise (not mine), he did.
Finally, when it was over, and we walked to the car, his hand in mine, his shoulders sagging. I figured he'd had enough of a lecture on the actual "act" he had been in trouble for in the first place, and I told him how much I loved him and how proud of him I was that he had done a wonderful job of listening.