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Friday, October 7, 2011

Excuses Undermine Appropriate Behavior



No one likes to be held accountable for their behavior (or lack of behavior). It makes us feel uncomfortable, because accountability means we may be "wrong". From childhood, we find ways to avoid that uncomfortable accountability: the dog did it, (s)he did it, I didn't do it, it wasn't my fault, nobody else did their work either, and so on. Many times parents find it less work to move on and ignore the child's lapse of behavior; accountability can consume time in argument without generating any clear resolution and result in tension affecting everyone in the family.


No one likes to be held accountable for their behavior (or lack of behavior). It makes us feel uncomfortable, because accountability means we may be "wrong". From childhood, we find ways to avoid that uncomfortable accountability: the dog did it, (s)he did it, I didn't do it, it wasn't my fault, nobody else did their work either, and so on. Many times parents find it less work to move on and ignore the child's lapse of behavior; accountability can consume time in argument without generating any clear resolution and result in tension affecting everyone in the family.

Inappropriate Modeling
Often, especially when officials try to make adults accountable for enabling inappropriate behavior in their children, both parent and child find flimsy excuses: the bus was late and I had to go to work, my boss kept me longer and I couldn't pick him up in time, it was the other child's fault that my son got in the fight, and so on. When adults as well as children generate excuses, there are no solutions.

Solutions Bring Change
Generating solutions is difficult because, if we knew what to do instead of what we've been doing, we'd do it. A solution means recognizing there is a problem, but problems exist at the expense of someone being "wrong" or "not good enough". It means that someone has to change something by being responsible for something: an approach (trying to solve a problem rather than laying blame), an action (stopping habitual actions and thinking of a new response), a procedure (changing a habit of routine actions to create a new process designed to cause less/no conflict at critical points), a product (completing assignments or course of study and earning credits).
Change Can Be Good
No one likes change; it is a threat to our egos because it brings about the unknown. Change is scary to everyone, but it doesn't have to be. When we recognize that changing our behaviors can bring good results into our lives, change can be beneficial. Suppose adults and children constantly argue about responsibilities. Wouldn't it be a welcome change to avoid those stressful arguments? Wouldn't everyone like to be able to get along without the conflict, accusations, hassles surrounding consequences and punishments?
Accepting Responsibility
Change could be as easy as saying, "I was wrong. Let's try another way." Just because you didn't know about something out of your control, it doesn't mean you are "bad" or "less than" or "weak" or "vulnerable" or any other description usually associated with blame. The "blame game" helps no one. Why not just admit something isn't working well and communicate to find solutions everyone can live with. Negotiate areas of responsibility and ways to work together. Negotiate ways to help each other and reward each other with pleasant interactions, praise, surprising ways to help others. Negotiate the help you need to bring about the desired results, for both you and your child. It can happen.
Jennifer Little, Ph.D.
All children can succeed in school. Parents can help their children by teaching the foundational skills that schools presume children have. Without the foundation for schools' academic instruction, children needlessly struggle and/or fail. Their future becomes affected because they then believe they are less than others, not able to succeed or achieve or provide for themselves or their families. Visit http://parentsteachkids.com to learn how to directly help your child and http://easyschoolsuccess.com to learn what is needed for education reform efforts to be successful.


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