As humans, we often resort to making excuses as a way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions. Children are no different. Jan Lashbrook, CCA’s Early Childhood Director, offers valuable insight for parents to empower their children to act responsibly in light of God’s love and grace.
My husband and I recently visited our son and family in Danville, Kentucky. He is the receiver’s coach and offensive pass coordinator for Centre College’s football program. As he was giving us a tour of their new stadium complex, we noticed a gravesite marker with the words, “Centre College – RIP Excuses.”
He explained that at the beginning of every football season, he has his receivers write down all the excuses they could possibly make for any deficiencies in their performance, attitudes, and work ethic during the coming year. Together they drop them into a small “grave” and bury them, adding a grave marker to help them remember: “No more excuses.”
The Beginning of Excuse Making
I thought about all the excuses I’ve made over the years for things I didn’t do as well as I should have or things I should have done but didn’t do. To be honest, there are too many to count! We humans are prone to making excuses.
Some are valid, some not so much, but we can come up with some pretty good excuses for our lack of responsibility at times, and kids are better at it than we are. I don’t know about yours, but our kids came up with some pretty creative and elaborate excuses over the years to get out of things they didn’t want to do.
Making excuses might start innocently enough – kids don’t like consequences, and they make excuses to get out of them. However, as time goes on, they may start making excuses to evade work and other responsibilities. The more children avoid taking responsibility, the more excuses they need to get by in the world. And as they grow, this pattern can negatively affect their grades, future jobs, careers, and even their marriage.
The time to help them accept responsibility is now.
Janet Lehman of Empowering Parents
offers some tips to help your child avoid excuse-making:
- Call it Out
Catch your child making the excuse and call them out. When they’re blaming someone else for their actions, let them know that they, and no one else, are accountable for their actions.
- Behaviors Over Excuses
Focus on addressing the behavior, not the excuse. Once you identify the behavior, you can name it and encourage your child to be honest about it. Be clear about what you saw happen so they know they can’t change the subject and move on until they face the consequences.
- Keep it Simple
Keep the conversation simple. Name the problematic behavior, identify the poor choice, and then discuss what a better choice would look like. This equips them to take ownership next time.
- Set the Example
Model for your child how to take responsibility. As parents, we are called to teach, set limits, and coach our children. Role modeling is a great way to reinforce biblical principles and moral truth to our kids. When we mess up (and we will), we can demonstrate responsible behavior by owning up to our mistakes and apologizing to our kids. This sets the stage for them to accept responsibility and take ownership when they make mistakes in the future.
- Right the Wrong
Have your child apologize or make amends for the mistake. There is a difference between apologizing and making amends. An apology shows remorse for an action, which is important. However, making amends goes further, by correcting the mistake made. Making amends is an essential part of taking responsibility, and may be difficult for a child at first, but it gets easier over time.
Empower Their Choices
Remind your child there are always choices. If they blow it this time, they can make a better choice next time. There is ALWAYS an opportunity for change, and children need that hope and encouragement. The more our children are empowered to take ownership of their actions, the more responsible they will become.
Our God is a God of grace and mercy. He is the God of second chances who gives us abundant grace when we need it. Because He has given us His grace, we can show our kids that same grace when they make mistakes. We can use those opportunities as teachable moments, so they grow up learning how to take responsibility for their actions and attitudes. That’s what God does for us, and we can pass it on to our children.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” –Hebrews 4:16
Jan Lashbrook is the director of Calvary Christian Academy’s Early Childhood program, overseeing our Pre-K and Preschool programs. Jan holds a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Liberty University. She and her husband are “empty-nesters,” having raised three children who are all grown and married. Their youngest, Shawn, attended CCA for 12 years, graduating in 2012.