By: Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.
Instead of taking responsibility for their own mistakes, children readily shift blame. How do we teach kids to admit their faults and humbly apologize? Dr. Scott Turansky, co-founder of National Center for Biblical Parenting, offers these insights.
It’s not my fault!
Isn’t it amazing that some children seem to be able to see every factor that went into their current problem except their own part in it? Indeed, some kids have a problem blaming others and not taking responsibility for their part of the problem. In the child’s mind, it’s always someone else’s fault. These children have the ability to see all kinds of reasons why an offense occurs, but can’t see how their own actions contributed to it, or at least they don’t want to admit it.
Children who blame, lie, or resist taking responsibility have a character weakness. It’s not enough to just use parental authority to overpower a child or worse yet, to humiliate a child. Those techniques are counterproductive. It takes courage and humility to admit fault. Coaching children to rise to the occasion and, at times, requiring that they do so, can be an excellent way to increase confidence levels in that child.
God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. —James 4:6
Humility and Courage Required
In your family, talk about the difference between pride and humility by doing a few activities to encourage humility as an important success principle for life. Everyone can participate providing examples of what humility looks like. You might simply ask, “What is a way you did or will demonstrate humility today?” Or brainstorm ideas of ways people demonstrate humility and why it’s helpful. You could contrast humility with arrogance and describe how they are demonstrated and why people appreciate one and are annoyed by the other. This could be fun to role play as well, joking together but in doing so making a point.
Be careful of parenting approaches that actually encourage defensiveness in kids. Parents who tend to ask investigative questions about an offense make the error of encouraging kids to explain their defense. Asking “What happened here?” Can cause children to focus on the faults of others. Asking the question, “What did you do wrong?” is often more productive.
The underlying problem in many children is the reluctance to admit fault for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s fear of punishment or parental disapproval or the self-condemnation that comes from admitting weakness. Those deeper issues must be met with a bigger approach involving teaching, coaching, and training.
The reality is that admitting fault isn’t a sign of weakness but is a sign of strength. The person who responds well to correction learns faster and matures more rapidly. Taking time to dialogue about these truths can help kids resist the urge to blame problems on others.