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Enough Excuses Take Responsibility

Updated on April 2, 2010

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!

Photograph by Marty
Photograph by Marty
  • 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:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why?

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.

Second warning.

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.


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      January 3 years ago

      I was so confused about what to buy, but this makes it undaastendrble.

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      Elton 3 years ago

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      Juan 3 years ago

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      Alexis Mehler 6 years ago

      great hub. thanks for the insights. i have been a homeschool parent and this helps a lot especially every morning when the kids are mostly demanding. i am looking forward to your next hub.

      thank you very much.


    • SamboRambo profile image

      Samuel E. Richardson 7 years ago from Salt Lake City, Utah

      Great advice and insight. Where were you before I became a grandpa? I have occasionally put my two contending grandkids side-by-side and had them each tell their story. I said, "We're all staying here until your stories match." I was amazed at how quickly they came together.

      -- Sam Antone

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Excellent comment and agree wholeheartedly billyaustindillon. Thank you for visiting.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 8 years ago

      Excellent hub - life is all about consequences and most people just want to shirk responsibility, if you take it your control your life.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Narain, thank you for your encouraging words. I hope to produce more valuable hubs. Thank you for reading.

    • Narain.K.D. profile image

      Narain.K.D. 8 years ago from India

      Nice and aptly put in words. You say you are not a great parent, but perfection comes by knowing our mistakes and correcting them. I am sure you are a wonderful and an idle parent. Words coming out of experience are valued more. Keep it up and hubs like this enlighten many souls. Expecting many more valuable hubs like this.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      hypnodude thank you for your comment, thank for rating and stumbling! That's a shame, the US still frowns upon that harshly, thank goodness. Yes, it begins with the parents and trickles down, hopefully we teach our children and they will teach theirs.

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrea 8 years ago from Italy

      Very good hub, and so full of truth. Actually the world is going in pieces because no one takes responsibility for his own actions, nor these responsibilities are given by society, not anymore. There is always a good excuse for every act. As an example here in Italy killing people while driving under alcohol or drugs is seen more as a mitigating circumstance than as an aggravating one.

      Our parents taught us to take our responsibilities for our acts, and this is one of the most useful lesson to learn.

      Great hub, rated and stumbled.:)

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you HC!! A wonderful compliment. So glad you enjoyed.

    • H.C Porter profile image

      Holly 8 years ago from Lone Star State

      Wow! Amen... Dont think it could have been said more clearly. Fantastic Hub! Rated Up for sure!

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Quill, thank you again for your wonderful comment. Absolutely true. And such a huge topic right up there with politics and religion. To spank or not to spank, that is the question. I have told my children often that "when I was a kid..." I went to school with Corporal Punishment. I didnt pull a tag for talking, I got whacked across the hand with a ruler. And if I "talked back", well lets just say my mother had a hand that could travel the speed of light. Talk about consequences... yikes. Is it better or is it worse for the kids being raised today? This jury is still out on that one.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you JannyC, yes kids are full of surprises and just when you think you it figured out, it changes. When you think you have a stage figured out because you've been through it once or twice, well the next one is a completely different child so the stage is completely different. Whew! Makes me tired just writing it. lol

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      "Quill" 8 years ago

      Great Hub, though I have never been a parent I have noticed that accountability factor in the relationship parents/children. Laws of the land govern how you can discipline your children and and I can certainly see the aftershock today.

      As children we were taught to respect our parents, something which is missing in so many children today...


    • JannyC profile image

      JannyC 8 years ago

      Excellent hub. I dont think there is a parent expert they maybe on the suppose psychology and behaviors of children in certain stages of life but kids are full of suprises and even stump them sometimes. We learn from each other and experiences and we are always learning. To say your are an expert is a bit arrogent to me. So you go girl! Thanks for sharing your insight and who know how many people this could help.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Ann... thank you! Such a wonderful reply gave me my first giggle of the day. Thank you for your comment and applause!

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      _cheryl_ thank you for your comment and yes agree agree agree, now I'm off to read your hub.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      mssorensson thank you once again for your comment, I so appreciate you as a fan and your continued support! Glad you enjoyed this hub too.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      KoffeeKlatch thank you for your comment. Yes we certainly have to keep trying to improve and grow as parents and as our kids grow and then keep our fingers crossed.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Wesman, thank you for your comment. The day you become a parent, you'll wish you had some sort of manual. We all do.

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 8 years ago from Virginia

      Bravo, Missi! I know you said to put ones hands down and get to work, but for now my hands are busy applauding your great hub! Keep it up!

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Very great hub Missi. I can't stress enough how important it is for parents to make teaching responsibility a top priority. I especially agree with how you mention consequences for thier actios. What kind of parents are we to send our kids out into the world thinking that they can do and get away with whatever they want. If there are no consequences at home, then it leads not only to irresposibilty, but lack of respect. We think alike on this matter (I did one on this subject also) =)

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 8 years ago

      Great hub! You say it as it is!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      You are absolutely correct - there is always condequences for your actions, as an adult and there should be for children. Too many times there is no consequnces for the childs actions. Unfortunately instead of teaching the child what happens when you do wrong there are often no boundries set and excuses gien. There is no such thing as a perfect parent but we have to keep trying. Great hub.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I'm not a parent, but I think this is a great hub :-D