Stop the Blame Game
"I didn't do it!" My 7-year-old daughter, Coco, recites that phrase like a mantra. Her explanations for why she's blameless fall into three main categories: Someone hit her first, it was the other kid's idea, or some adult (usually me) was responsible.
I used to let these comments slide, figuring every child her age blames others when something goes wrong. But when she said, "I didn't break the cup -- my hand did," I knew I had to teach her to own up to her behavior.
"Kids this age have difficulty taking responsibility for their actions and behavior, especially when they think their parents would disapprove of something they did," says Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, PhD, professor of child development at Columbia University Teachers College, in New York City. Since they are still not adept at anticipating consequences, admitting culpability can be daunting. For school-age children, understanding rules and consequences is still a developmental work in progress, says K. Mark Sossin, PhD, professor of psychology at Pace University, in New York City.
Even if you know why your child is reluctant to admit that she's done something wrong, you may be baffled by the strange things she says when confronted with something that's obviously her doing. Keep in mind that, for most children, accepting responsibility is a learned behavior, like manners or taking turns. So the next time you run into one of the following situations, use it as an opportunity to teach her how to react appropriately.