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Question

My sons are 6 and 7. I am having problems teaching them to take responsibilty for their actions. If they throw a toy down and it breaks, they will blame me because I bought a toy that was cheap. If they leave a toy on the ground and the dog chews it, its my fault because I didn't pick it up in time. They are becoming brats and I'm using every tactic I know of to help teach them there are consequences to certain behaviors. Any suggestions you have to offer would be greatly appreciated!

Answer

Amy Adams Replied: This is my forte! There's nothing wrong with your kids, except for the fact that they seem to have their position in the family a bit mixed up.

In every communication with your children, remain calm and master the art of showing no emotion and no facial expression (Role play in front of the mirror.). My first suggestion would be to call a "family conference" and calmly let them know how it makes you feel when they act in this manner. Use very specific language, because saying generic things like "bratty"doesn't convey enough information.

Tell them how things are going to change. For instance, "You need to take care of your things, because they are important to you and you'll be sad if they got chewed up by the dog. These aren't my things, so I won't be picking them up, any more.

It may be helpful to put together a line by line check list on the computer that reads: Did I pick up my toys? Did I put my shoes in my closet? Did i brush my teeth tonight? Routine is paramount, so having a set time for this, dinner and bed time every night, is key! When these are done, stand with your child and together you can put a sticker by each one. Immediate rewards are the best!

If the boys seem resistant and say,"I don't care if the dog chews up my toy!", calmly take the item. Start a bag of items to be given to charity, because there are so many children that would be grateful for the toys! Once items go into the bag, they don't come out. This could also lead to an opportunity for your kids to learn about charitable giving.

Next, address they way that they speak to you. Tell them that treating each other with respect is just what we do. One thing you can do (Set it up in advance.) is let them see you talk to one of your friends they way they speak to you. When you see them look at you like their crazy, let them know that this how they talk to you. Tell them it hurts your feelings and if they do it...from the very first time, isolate each of them to separate areas, telling them, "It's not acceptable to speak to me in that manner". Make them stay for about 10 minutes to think it over and tell them they can come out when they're ready to apologize. Make the child sit with you, face-to-face and explain his behavior and offer a sincere apology, Move on from there, but be firm and consistent. It doesn't matter if you're at a party, the grocery store or anywhere else.

The "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle" books (by McDonald) are fantastic for things like this. Each "lesson" is a chapter with illustrations. Some of the titles I can think of are "The Never Want to Go to Bedder's Cure" and "The Talk-Backer's Cure".

Last, find a "Love & Logic" course in your area to take. It will be the best money you ever spent!

I have a daughter and 3 sons, so I know it can be tough! As a 16 year school principal and parenting coach, I can tell you it is do-able, if you're consistent & persistent.

Please feel free to contact me again, if you need clarification or would like other suggestions.

Happy Parenting!

Amy A. Adams, M.Ed.
Posted On 2009-04-22 20:57:42
Rachel Russo Replied: Congratulations for realizing that your children need your help now in developing proper attitudes and behaviors so that they can become more responsible as they get older. The most important thing you can do for your children who are listening and watching you is to be an example of someone who takes responsibility for her actions. You must talk to them about particular situations and show them the right behaviors, as well as why such behaviors are the right behaviors. You can tell them that everyone contributes to a problem in one way or another. You can say that a toy breaking may not be all their fault, but that they did play a role in that outcome. However, your actions will speak louder than your words. You should show your children that there are consequences for the wrong behaviors by giving them appropriate punishments. Lastly, you should focus on activities that will promote discipline for them. See the suggested website for more information.
Posted On 2009-04-05 10:58:13
Brenda Nixon, M.A. Replied: It's common for youngsters to blame others and divert accountability. I suggest you simply make a statement like, "You threw the toy and that's why it broke." Simple and direct. Don't get hooked into a debate with them and don't take the ball of guilt -- you did nothing wrong. During neutral times (when everyone is calm) you can make comments that shows you accept responsibility for your behavior, too. Remember, children copy adults. If your sons hear you say something like, "I forgot to put my shoe away and the dog chewed it," then they'll see you can accept your own shortcomings. Gradually, with your patience, modeling, and explanations they will learn to accept responsibility for their own behavior.
Posted On 2009-04-04 19:50:24
Gary Pritchard Replied: Having gone through this stage with my 3 boys I can empathizeā€¦ You are on the right track in making them accountable for their choices. It's all about choices and accountability. By not allowing your boys to blame you or the quality of the toy, your boys will learn to accept responsibility for their actions. If they can learn this now it will help them be successful with the bigger choices and consequences in the next few years. Certainly you want to be sure your own actions with "your things" are consistent with your words to your boys. We as parents are the most successful when we "walk the walk". Also.."consistency wins". Be consistent in making them accountable whether that means "doing without that toy the dog chewed " or "replacing it" with their own money they had to earn. They will always know where you stand no matter what or who's around. It's great you want to teach the boys to take of their things.. it's refreshing to hear in a world where everything is being pushed as disposable. Best of luck
Posted On 2009-04-01 07:44:09
Darlene MacAuley Replied: I want to acknowledge you for reaching out for help. I can hear how frustrated you are by your children's accusations, and I understand you want them to be accountable for their own actions, rather than blame you.

I have a 7 yo and a 9 yo, and I understand how frustrating this situation can be.

I'd like to offer you a process from the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk." It's in a section about problem solving.

1. Talk about the child's feelings. ("I imagine you must be feeling...")

Notice and mention what you think you're child is feeling, and if he says no, then ask him how he feels. It may also help to say what you see. Once your child trusts you understand how he feels and feels heard, he'll likely be open to what you have to say next.

ie: "I see how upset you are that the toy is broken." or "You are angry because the dog found your toy on the ground and mistook that for a chew toy."

2. Talk about your feelings. ("Here's how I feel about it.")

K.I.S.S. - Keep it short and sweet. Also use "I" statements and try hard to avoid "you", which typically makes the other person feel badly, as you have experienced.

ie: "I'd like to tell you how I feel about this. I am sad when your toys break. It frustrates me when toys are played with roughly and they break [or, it frustrates me when toys are left in a place where the dog can easily get to them]."

3. Invite the child to work on finding a mutually acceptable solution.

Ask the child what they suggest they do with the broken toy, and then what can be done in the future to prevent their toys from breaking. You may even want to write it down for future reference so you can show it to them if it happens again. Bite your tongue if what they suggest is not acceptable to you. Not yet, at least. Let them come up with as many reasons as they can.

ie: "What can be done to fix this toy?" and/or "What can be done in the future to prevent this from happening?"
Others: "Let's write down 3 ways to remember to put our toys away"
"Let's write down 5 rules about how to play with our toys"
"What should happen if your toys break in the future?"

4. Decide which ideas you like, which you don't, and which ideas you want to put into action.

Try to keep the ideas in a positive light. If some ideas are not acceptable to you, say so and why. You may want to offer a couple of alternative choices.

ie: "I like this idea a lot. We'll circle that one."
"That's something I could do."

"I do not feel buying a replacement toy is acceptable, because I expect the toys I buy for you to be taken care of. You can save a part of your allowance to buy another one, fix the one you have, or do without it."

5. Follow through.

If the toy is going to be fixed, determine what the next steps are. If it's going to be discarded, then do that. If they decide they want to save for a new one, make a plan for it and do it.

6. Don't permit the child to blame or accuse you at any point.

Be firm.

ie: "I understand how angry you are, but it is NOT okay to blame me. Let's talk about what we can do next."

I know this sounds like an awfully long process. It takes some discipline on your part to keep your cool, and it may take changing some of the language you use. I really encourage you to try it, though, and see how it works for you. I also encourage you to read the book, or better yet, see if a class is available to take near you. Good luck"
Posted On 2009-03-28 18:26:17
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