The biggest change in kids, according to a teacher of 27 years, is that kids these days don’t take responsibility for their actions.

Kids are quick to blame others and make excuses for mistakes rather than saying, “I messed up.” Unfortunately, parents are quick to provide excuses for their kids, too, said Kevin Scroggins, a 2nd grade teacher at St. Odilia’s.

I agree and I’d like to offer some suggestions on how you can build a mindset in your child that says, “I’m responsible for my behavior,” rather than blaming others.

1. Tell your child flat out that s/he is responsible for his/her behavior, not a friend or a sibling.

We’ve all heard the excuse, “All the kids were doing it!” No matter what the peer pressure is, you need your children to be strong and make good choices. You can encourage this behavior by telling your child, “You alone are responsible for your behavior and I won’t accept that as an excuse.”

Teach your child to be his/her own best friend and think, ‘Is this safe for me?’ ‘Do I feel comfortable now or is there a little voice inside my head telling me not to do this?” If so, teach your child to follow that voice, leave the situation and let you know what happened.

2. Have your child pick up after making a mess/mistake.

If your child spills something, tell the child what cleaning supplies are needed for picking up the mess and have the child clean it. This teaches personal responsibility. (If you have a very young child, you can assist the child.) One time my child spilled finger nail polish on the carpet and for the next several hours she was by my side as we searched the internet for solutions, then searched the house for the right supplies and scrubbed the polish until it came out. That child has never put on finger nail polish in her room again.

3. Don’t let your child blame others.

“She started it!” “He made me do it!” These excuses are common, particularly among siblings. You can stop your child dead in his/her tracks by saying, “I hear you blaming others. What I want to hear you answer right now is ‘What can you do differently to prevent this problem from happening again?’” Another variation of this is: “I hear you blaming others and I want to hear what your contribution to the problem was?”

Preventing kids from blaming others gives them pause. Often times, they haven’t thought about how they contributed to making the matter worse. It’s rare when one child is the clear troublemaker. Usually two people make choices that contribute to the escalation of the problem. Hold each child accountable.

4. Don’t let your child say, “You make me so mad!”

Instead of saying “You make me so mad,” you want your child to say, “I’m so mad!” It’s a subtle, but important distinction. The point is that no one can MAKE you mad. Getting mad is a choice YOU make. You are in charge of your feelings and no one can make you feel a certain way unless you agree to go down that path.

5. Don’t make excuses for your child.

If your child’s teacher calls with a problem, be open to listening to both sides of the story. Many teachers will tell you that parents get defensive, make excuses for the child and don’t become part of the solution. The child then learns that Mom and Dad will mop up the messes they make (literally and figuratively) and bail them out. (Look what’s happening in Washington!)

“Parents need to help kids take ownership for their mistakes as well as their successes,” Scroggins said. “There’s freedom in admitting ‘I blew it. I was wrong and I’m sorry’ so we can move on. Many parents are denying their children this freedom by covering up for them.”

6. Point out mistakes that you make.

Every night at the dinner table, ask “Did anyone make a mistake today?” Then be the first one to say, “Boy, did I make a mistake today!” Modeling that mistakes happen every day and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of is healthy role modeling. Ask everyone in the family how s/he would fix the mistake to develop good problem-solving skills in your child.

7. Put it in writing.

If you assign a child a chore, write it down with a deadline for completion. If you have rules about phone or computer use, write them down. If your child has a project at school, write it down with a timeline. Writing chores, assignments and family rules down make responsibilities clear.

Consistently implement these seven strategies and you’ll be on your way to creating a mindset in your child that says, “I’m responsible for my behavior.” You’ll foster independence, humility, strong character and personal responsibility in your child if you do.

Author's Bio: 

Visit to receive the free mini-course “The 7 Worst Mistakes Parents Make (and How to Avoid Them!) and find instant answers to 17 common parenting problems. Toni Schutta is a Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist with 15 years experience helping families find solutions that work.

Visit to receive the free mini-course “The 7 Worst Mistakes Parents Make (and How to Avoid Them!)

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