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Monthly Archives: September 2016

Teaching children to take responsibility for their actions



We all know that ”one” adult in our lives who absolutely refuses at all costs to accept that they are in the wrong – even when they are so ”obviously” in the wrong. This adult will lie until they are blue in the face, is never wrong, can’t apologise – and has an unwillingness to accept their own human – ness.

What they don’t realise is that the only person they have fooled is themselves – and, the cost for their foolishness is huge. Unfortunately, this inability to look deeply within makes this person their own worst enemy, and the one person that healthy people stay away from.

I feel sorry for these adults. For whatever reason, they honestly are afraid of being wrong. To be wrong most likely triggers their shame, and other negative feelings. Whatever the reason maybe- unfortunately, this adult was most likely consistently shamed in childhood, and punished too harshly. Or, if not- somewhere along the line the behaviour may have been modelled to them, and has become inherited.

I don’t know anybody who feels ok about being called out on their poor behaviour. It is a humbling experience to be at fault – and It doesn’t feel nice.

A child who can learn to be responsible for their behaviour from a young age is immediately one step ahead (of the children who can’t) in the game of life.

I would much rather be in the company of someone who can see the error of their ways, than in the company of somebody who cannot. The person who can’t be wrong, can’t say sorry, and turns the argument back around, is a tad on the toxic side.

We do need to be careful with our little people. Shaming a child for doing the wrong thing may show up later in life in the form of  fear. Fear of of admitting fault, or for telling the truth. Punitive environments are renowned for putting fear into children,

Fear is one of the key reasons why some children do not want to accept responsibility for their own behaviour. The inner world of a little child is very black and white. Being naughty is associated with badness, and being well behaved is associated with being a good person.

Children do not want to feel the guilt that comes with having done the wrong thing. This is why it is very important to explain to our little people that doing something wrong, or treating somebody badly does not make you bad – it makes you human – and humans make mistakes.

The insight gained in child hood, and the apologies made now will pay off in adulthood.

I applaud my children when they apologise. I applaud them when they look deeply within – and I commend them for the bravery it takes to accept responsibility for their behaviour.



Common dynamics in sibling conflict

It happens! Siblings fight with one another, goad each other, and yell and scream until they’re blue in the face. Until of course, one of them finally loses their temper, and gives the other one a giant smack in the chops.

The above is a perfect example of a common scenario in my household between my school aged children aged 6 and 7. I don’t take my responsibility as a role-model and a mediator lightly. The thought of having adult children  who cannot look deeply within at their own behaviour is absolutely unthinkable.

How does a parent handle this situation?

I dissect the argument between my children, as much as time allows- and I explain exactly what just transpired between them. First I ask them what happened? Than I hold them accountable (if they both participated).

How the argument begins:

  • One child usually provokes the other one by handing them the metaphorical ‘golden plated invitation’ to become a participant in their argument.
  • The child drawn into the argument doesn’t understand that this is a trick to entertain boredom, irritation, or another emotion. This child takes it personally, reacts by losing their temper, and finally gives the child who drew them into an argument, a giant wack.


  • The argument is dissected by the parent if possible, as much as time will allow. Than it is explained to both children the role they played within the argument.
  • Each child is asked if they can see where they made some mistakes within the argument – which of course, lead to the escalation of the conflict.
  • The conflict initiator is asked if they can see how they provoked the argument, and the other child is asked if they can see that they reacted to the bullying type behaviour.
  • Than, the risks of both behaviours are explained in child like terms.

What to do?

I always explain to my children that feelings and emotions are normal and acceptable. However, the behaviour is the problem.

I recently sat both of my children down to have a detailed chat about the dynamics of their arguments. I explained to my son that by deliberately creating an argument he is causing trouble – and stroking someone’s emotions in the hope that they fly into a rage – which again, entails consequences.

Than, I explained to my daughter exactly what her brother is up to. I informed her that he is dragging her into a dispute due to boredom, annoyance, a hard day, or another emotion.

It is important to explain to children that it is a choice to take the ‘golden plated invitation.’ If the invitation is taken, they will be tricked into an argument. They do have options.  They can walk away, discuss the situation with mum, work on communication strategies with mum, find a compromise, or, they can  go to their happy place.

I empathise with the child who hits back. The reason why I empathise with them? Because they have been picked at, called names, attacked for no reason, and have had their buttons pressed. Now they look like the perpetrator, the naughty child – the one who often gets sent to their bedroom.

Lastly: The apology

Once I’ve explained the actions of both children to each of my children, they are usually quite happy to apologise, and they are surprisingly ready to forgive one another.

Finally my children are learning to look within, to accept when they are wrong, and to take responsibility for their part in the argument. Skills which they will forever be grateful for, and the skills which will allow them to shine in adult hood. Such a gift!