No more excuses!

This post is about not asking for excuses by asking your kids to explain why they did something wrong or forgot to do something they were supposed to do (or had agreed to do). This is a common pattern that will create problems and can undermine your authority. Here’s why asking “why” is problematic:

* It focuses on excuses rather than commitment.

* It assumes kids knows why they did it (or forgot) and can adequately explain their reasons.

* It suggests that your boundaries and limits are flexible if your children have a good enough excuse: “If you’re creative (or pathetic) enough, you’re off the hook.” It tells them that you don’t really mean what you say.

* It puts you in the position of having to judge the “validity” of your children’s excuses and arbitrarily decide wether or not to hold them accountable.

* If you’ve got a good boundary with a positive outcome, if your children are developmentally able to do what you’ve asked and if they have had enough time, training or reminders (ahead of time) to succeed, why doesn’t matter— the positive outcome is simply not available until the children change their behavior or fulfill their commitments. There’s much to be learned about responsibility and commitment from this experience.

* It may give you ammunition to attack or shame your kids (“You should have thought of that before,” “You should have known better,” “How could you have been so stupid?”) instead of using the occasion as an opportunity for them to make more responsible choices and correct their behavior.

Excerpted and adapted from The Parent’s Little Book of Lists: Do’s & Don’ts of Effective Parenting by Dr. Jane Bluestein, © 2021, Father Sky Publishing, Albuquerque, NM

© 1997, 2001, 2012, 2021, Dr. Jane Bluestein

Related links:

5 Characteristics of a Good Boundary
11 Reasons to Use Boundaries
9 Things to Remember when Setting Boundaries
The Challenge of Setting Boundaries
Guidelines for Handling Your Children’s Negative Behavior
Guidelines for Offering Choices to Your Children
Magic Sentences for Effective Communication
Motivating Cooperative Behavior
Thinking of “Consequences” as the Good Stuff

Podcast: The Choice is Yours with Lynn Collins

Book: Listas Para Padres: Qué Hacer Y Qué No
Book: The Parent’s Little Book of Lists: Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Parenting
Book: Parents, Teens and Boundaries: How to Draw the Line

Audio: Parent Tapes (mp3 download)

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