Do your kids often play the blame game or make excuses for their behavior with no sense of personal accountability for their actions? I know mine do! I think it’s part of the human condition.
Though there are ways we can teach our children, and ourselves, how to make better choices, break bad habits, and be more responsible.
It all starts with having a sense of personal accountability.
Accountability is something we ALL struggle with not just our kids.
But if we can learn to master it – it’ll change our lives completely!
How do we teach our kids, or ourselves for that matter, to be a more accountable person?
I’ll tell you what doesn’t work is nagging, lecturing, or simply ignoring the problem.
I’ve tried them all to exhaustion! After too many struggle and contentious conversations with my children about one thing or another that they forgot, broke, or didn’t handle responsibly – I got it.
I was able to see two mindsets that we all use as mental crutches that hold us back greatly in life. If we can teach our children how to identify these mindsets and equally how to resist them – it’ll truly change their lives.
And like I said, this isn’t just for the kiddos – it’s for us too!
Accountability Starts with a Thought First
Basically, when we make a mistake of any kind and it’s brought to our attention by ourselves or someone else; we typically respond to that correction with one of two mindsets:
- It’s the other guy’s fault (finger pointing or blame shifting)
- It’s no big deal (shrugging off the issue)
We’re all guilty of these responses. In fact, they both go back to the beginning of time! After God asked Adam why he ate the forbidden fruit, he quickly shifted the blame by saying, “it was because of the woman you gave me!”
Yeah, he totally blamed Eve and God in one fell swoop.
Then Eve responded by simply saying, “the serpent tricked me, so I ate.” Her matter-of-fact response shows her lack of understanding of the huge ramifications of her actions.
And we readily run to these responses as our way of shielding our hearts from pain. We either pass the blame like a hot potato so we don’t have to deal with the harsh reality of our choices. Or we minimize the situation in an effort to remove the negative consequences of our actions altogether – so we can just move on. Right?
Wrong. These mindsets (if left unchecked) are dysfunctional ways of thinking because they don’t allow us to process and think about what we did and how it affected the world around us – no matter how seemingly, small it is. As a result, our actions continue and we never change – developing a bad habit.
The 2 Keys to Change
I know if I’m doing something I know I shouldn’t be – over and over – change is what I need. But all too often I get stuck in a pattern of making the same mistakes and poor choices, day after day. And I don’t want this dysfunctional pattern to be my daily routine or my child’s.
If we want to change bad habits and make better choices, we must start doing the following two things every day. I say every day because let’s face it – making bad choices (even the little ones) can be a day by day matter.
Own Your Part
The first thing we must do when we’re being corrected or we notice we’ve made a mistake, is to stop and evaluate the situation and find your personal responsibility in it. Now there are times when bad things happen and they’re completely outside of our control. But most often, we have a part to play. And way too often, it’s a whole lot easier to point out everyone else’s part and blame them instead of ourselves.
A simple example is when my girls leave their toys or craft supplies laying around the house instead of putting them away when they’re done. And when their curious baby brother (who finds their toys like a magnet) breaks one of them – they get really mad and want to blame him.
But blaming the baby isn’t the right response. Taking personal responsibility for not putting away their stuff and not doing it again is the right response. Babies break stuff. It’s kinda their thing. So keeping their stuff out of his reach is the right action.
Once we find our part to play, we must own it. We don’t need to and shouldn’t take responsibility for anyone else’s actions, but we must learn to take responsibility for our own. That’s because when our knee-jerk reaction is to blame someone else, we never even have the chance to process how we can avoid this behavior or situation in the future.
It’s like Groundhog Day over and over again.
Change can’t happen until we learn to be accountable for our own actions.
Don’t Minimize the Situation
The same is true for the second mindset – minimizing the situation. This is the “it’s no big deal” mindset. Now, let me tread carefully. I’m not advocating we should run around making mountains out of mole hills. But I am saying if we develop a habit of quickly minimizing every mistake we make as no big deal (even if it is) it can lead to big problems.
So the second thing we must do when faced with correction is to take a moment and really look at the situation. To see the effects of our choice. And only then decide if it’s no big deal.
For example, if I said a flippant comment to one of my kids that I assumed was no big deal, but it hurt one of their feelings – I can’t shrug it off as nothing.
These are really basic examples but you get the point because if we’re honest, we’ve all blame shifted and minimized situations from time to time. And in the grand scheme of things it’s probably not going to cause your life irreversible damage. But if allowed to become habits, especially on reoccurring mistakes – it’s Groundhog Day for you. And that’s a bad place to be.
When we decide to slow down and take responsibility for our own actions and stop to acknowledge the real severity of the situation; it makes room for us to change. And I don’t know about you, I don’t like repeating my mistakes over and over.
These are two simple shifts of the mind that can reap huge results in your life if you make them a daily habit. I’m truly fascinated by the power of thinking the right way. We hold the power of change right in our own minds! We don’t need to wait until others make life better for us, we can do that right now by changing how we see our lives.
It’s really powerful because it doesn’t depend on other people. You really can have a better life by thinking differently. And this isn’t a lesson on the power of positive thinking, either.
It’s more like a thought make-over. Removing the old, negative and counterproductive thought processes and adding in new thoughts that reap powerful results.
When you start working on having the right mindset every day, it’ll work wonders in helping you to change or tweak all the other stuff in your life. It all starts in your mind, though.
Let me know what you do when you make mistakes or bad choices. How to do help your child manage their choices? Put a comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!