-Teaching kids to take responsibility
What happens when your children get in trouble? How often do you hear, “Yes mom, I did it. I’m sorry. I see why that was not a good choice. I won’t do it again.” I bet if your child took responsibility so calmly and completely you’d fall over in shock.
Teaching your kids to take responsibility for their choices is a tough job that requires some thick skin—they can be very creative (not to mention mean) when it comes to avoiding taking responsibility. I’ve noticed kids typically react in one of a few ways:
“We’ll he did something even more horrible. Let’s talk about what someone else did instead of what I did.”
“You’re so mean. You are the worst mom ever! You are making my life miserable by enforcing consequences to my actions.”
“I hate myself. I never do anything right. I can’t even see why what I did was wrong because I’m too busy feeling sorry for myself.”
The Dramatist (a louder, more dramatic form of the deflector)
“You so don’t get me. You are always picking on me. You just don’t understand. I’m going to keep making broad, accusatory statements to avoid having to look at my own responsibility in this situation.”
“Why are you making such a big deal of this? Ok. I get it. Can you please stop talking now?”
So what’s a parent to do?
Facing our own responsibility when things go wrong is a tough thing to do. But making mistakes is actually a really important part of being a kid. We’re not born knowing just what to do in every situation. Mistakes are how we learn and grow. When children learn this, it’s easier not to feel so much pressure to be perfect all the time. It’s easier to accept responsibility and learn from it.
Here are some things I say to my kids when they start going all Dramatist-Deflector or some other combination of “I’m doing my best not to deal with this difficult situation”.
We’re not talking about him (me/her) right now. We’re talking about you. This is a choice you made, and so you need to take responsibility for the consequences. It’s ok to make mistakes. But you don’t want to make the same one twice, right? Let’s look at what we can learn from this situation.
“This isn’t about making you feel bad. This is about learning from this situation so you can grow from it. Everyone makes mistakes and we may feel bad about it for a little while. But then we decide we’re done feeling bad and it’s time to see what we can learn from this so we don’t feel bad for this situation again.”
“I hear what you are saying. If you want to talk about that issue after this, I’m happy to do it. Right now, we’re going to talk about this situation. Once you take responsibility for your part in it, and learn how to do it differently next time, we can move on to other topics.”
I will stop talking when I know you have understood what I’ve been saying. Please tell me (respectfully) why I think this is a big deal and what you are going to do next time, and I’ll gladly let it go.
So how does your child react when he/she gets in trouble?
Want more help?
Need help teaching kids to take responsibility? Try reading the Talking with Trees Books. The wise old trees know how to help children be honest with themselves—to really look in the mirror and then to make a good choice. They also help children forgive themselves and others so they can move on. Find more at TalkingTreeBooks.com