The many faces of Mr. Nobody (aka the Blame Game)

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“It wasn’t me” or “He made me do it”

As a parent, how many times have you heard that?

Actually, even non-parents have heard “not me”, “not my fault” or “someone else did it” over and over again in the normal course of their day. Passing the blame, passing the buck, not being accountable – it’s easier than being accountable, isn’t it?

When I was growing up, my mother joked that we had a Mr. Nobody living in our house. Mr. Nobody did EVERYTHING that we all totally denied. He was an active bugger, that Mr. Nobody.

 

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My kids are starting to point fingers. The Mr. Nobody in our house has an ever-changing face. When Andrew was an only child, he’d blame the mommy who wasn’t in the room at the time. After Dylan came into the world, it was easier to blame his little brother. When friends come over for play dates, it’s those pesky friends who made the mess.

Most recently, Dylan’s response has become “Aunt Laura did it” even when Aunt Laura hasn’t been over in days and isn’t there to defend herself.

In all seriousness, while some of this is age-related (more so for the 3 year old than the 6 year old) we do want to nip this in the bud before they grow into adults who cannot handle responsibility.  Taking responsibility is learned behavior, so we need to teach it to them.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

Brene Brown, from The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

After having a 5-minute “but, mommy…” argument with my 6 year old just yesterday, I’ve decided I need to focus on a few things as these blame games occur in our house:

  1. Let your children see you accept responsibility for mistakes (be ridiculously obvious about it if you have to)
  2. Use the word  “responsibility” instead of “fault”
  3. try to avoid arguing or accusing the child of lying
  4. be empathetic while pushing personal responsibility (i.e. “I know it’s hard to clean up Play-Doh but we all need to do our part, correct?”)
  5. Hold them accountable for the blame (“so, you are saying it’s mommy’s fault? Who is in control of your little body?”)
  6. Be firm with consequences and make sure they understand their own choices
  7. Let them see the impact of their actions (see this article)

I know so much of this is normal kid behavior, but I’m so bothered by adults who are completely unable to take responsibility that I want to give my children a chance to be respectful and accountable adults.

Here are some good resources/articles:

Great article in response to the “I’m sorry, but…” excuse: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Kids-Blaming-and-Apologies-Everything-after-But-is-Bull.php

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/child-who-always-blames-others

http://www.empoweringparents.com/Child-Outbursts-Why-Kids-Blame-Make-Excuses-and-Fight-When-You-Challenge-Their-Behavior.php

 

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