It’s everybody’s fault but mine.

Ivy says:

I’m back up on my soapbox, Home Eccers! Someone stop me! Or not, since my rants are (hopefully) your entertainment. Today’s issue: the “It’s not my fault” syndrome. Oh, Home Eccers. How this one bugs me to death.

My 14 year old is going to kill me for posting about this, but he’s the poster boy for this, although I have certainly seen it from many other people. A couple of weeks ago, he lost his backpack which had his music and drill in it for band. He had actually left it on the band field less than a week before this happened, but someone found it and gave it back to him. Then he lost it again, this time for good.

His claim: he left it in my car. My claim: he took it to a friend’s house and lost it there. Now, if he had left it in my car, then apparently someone broke into my car, overlooked my stereo and all the CDs in my car, the money in the center console, and anything else valuable. But they stole his backpack and nothing else. And left no evidence of a break-in, those crafty thieves. Um. Yeah. Right.

No matter what happened to it, he lost it and he’s responsible for replacing it and the items in it. Every time this is brought up, I hear how unfair this is since it’s not his fault. I remind him that it is, indeed, his fault since he’s responsible for keeping track of his own stuff. And round and round it goes.

But it’s not just my kid, like I said. My mom’s a teacher and she constantly hears tales of woe of how it’s not the kid’s fault that their homework wasn’t finished, or their book was lost or destroyed or they didn’t take paper and pencil to class. I see it on the internet- this morning’s example came from LiveJournal where someone was lamenting that their mother was angry at them for not doing housework. But, it’s not their fault! Doing housework makes this person feel like a slave!

Parents: we need to teach our kids responsibility and owning up to their own responsibility when they mess up. We can start by always admitting fault when something IS our fault. Yes, kids, dinner is burnt and we have to eat ham sandwiches. It’s my fault. Yep, I failed to wash your favorite shirt. Sorry, my fault.

And we have to let them suffer the consequences of their own failings. How many times have we rescued a kid when they told us that there’s a school project due TOMORROW MORNING and it’s 9:38 PM? Stop rescuing. Let them fail. It won’t kill them now, but it certainly might teach them a lesson about responsibility.

Tell me, Home Eccers. What do you do to teach your kids responsibility?


  1. TennZen on August 21, 2008 at 8:51 am

    A-MEN, Sister! I’m going through this right now with a teenager and an adult stepdaugter who’s living with us right now. We’re making the adult stepdaughter pay rent to us (although it’s a trivial amount) to teach her some responsibility. She thinks we’re terrible ogres, but she knows that if she doesn’t pay, then she’s outta here. (She doesn’t know it, but when she moves into her own place, we’re giving her back the money she’s paid us, to use for utility deposits and such.)

    Once the teenager came to us asking for money for a field trip – and it was quite expensive. The field trip was the next day. We told him at the beginning of the school year that he had to tell us immediately about any field trips or projects or anything like that and not wait until the last minute, else our answer would be “no.” On this occasion, the teenager waited until the last minute again – he’d known about the trip for 3 WEEKS. Our answer, as promised, was “no.” He missed out, but learned a valuable lesson.

    Teach them that responsibility now, so they won’t have a hard time when they’re out on their own.

  2. Heidi @ Carolina Dreamz on August 20, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Great post, Ivy.

    I’m a huge fan of Linda and Richard Eyre’s “Teaching your children Responsibility.” I can’t exactly afford to do it their way.. but I learned so much.

    I also made the first major word in each child’s vocabulary “consequences”.. even at age 2. Until I read the Eyre’s, I only had consistency on my side.

    I’m a mom, though, so I still rescue them.. but a little differently. Now that they are older, they know they owe me and I do have them pay up. Most of the time, I owe them, anyway.

  3. Paula in NH on August 20, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Sounds like you have gotten some great advice. My children are grown and I can only hope they teach their children (once they have them) responsibility.

    This post hit on one of my hot buttons. I have no tolerance for anyone who can’t accept responsibility for their own actions. If you messed up, own up to it! That’s my motto.

  4. Kendra on August 20, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I don’t have all the answers, but I did make $8 last week when a particular 15-year-old neglected to take the icky scrap bucket out to the chickens- twice.

    My younger kiddos find that their stuff just disappears when it’s left lying around a lot… wonder where it all goes??? 😀

  5. Mom of three on August 20, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I should have said the first day of band camp in 6th grade. He’s now a senior, even band directors need some time to teach maturity. LOL

  6. Mom of three on August 20, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Sounds like you have it well under control and he won’t do it again. Band tends to make them much more responsible too. Mine are Jr and Srs this year and I owe our band director a huge debt of gratitude. DS couldn’t find his own shoes for the first day of band camp, now he’s in leadership and is applying to colleges all on his own.

    Like you, I believe in people being responsible for themselves. That’s what we moms have to teach them. It’s much easier to pay for it ourselves than to deal with a pre-teen trying to earn the money himself, but believe me, you WILL thank yourself later. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you about my nephews… LOL

  7. Badbadivy on August 20, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Why not make him call the friend and ask if it’s there.

    He already has, a few times.

    THen if it’s not, check the lost and found at school (him that is, not you, although you might want to double check, the people in the office tend to be a little intimidating)

    He has. And the band lost and found. And, and, and.

    If it’s not there, then let him work off the cost of a new one, and the band stuff by doing extra chores either for you, or the band director.

    Oh, he is. That’s why I wrote “No matter what happened to it, he lost it and he’s responsible for replacing it and the items in it.” He’s using his own money to replace everything. And music and drill is NOT CHEAP. Believe me, he’s learning a lesson here.

  8. Mom of three on August 20, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    About the back pack. Why not make him call the friend and ask if it’s there. THen if it’s not, check the lost and found at school (him that is, not you, although you might want to double check, the people in the office tend to be a little intimidating)
    If it’s not there, then let him work off the cost of a new one, and the band stuff by doing extra chores either for you, or the band director.

  9. Mom of three on August 20, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    1) Be responsible yourself. Don’t be late yourself. Make Johnny go to school in his jammies, but make sure he knows you are leaving at 7:10. If he’s not in the car, explain it’s a long walk to school and being absent is not an option.

    2) Don’t bale the out all the time. If they don’t have band socks, you can occasionally help them out, but not every time. We all need help sometimes, but every time is enabling.

    3) Chores. Daily responsibilities, even if it’s clean up after themselves.

    4) Mimic good behavior. If I’m on time, my kids will be likely to be as well. If I do what I say I will, my kids are more likely to as well.

    5) REWARD good behavior. Yup, the good old fashion bribe. If Johnny is on time for a week, then why not a treat to the ice cream store? You know you were going anyway.

    Last weekend my youngest helped me by cleaning out the refrigerator. I told her when her room was done, we’d go get ice cream. By the time her chores were done, and mine were done, it was dinner time, so after dinner we all went. Dad had cut the grass and weed eated. Mom had cleaned the downstairs (so I could have an off day on Monday), the oldest two had defrosted the deep freeze, and she’d help me clean the kitchen and everyone had cleaned their rooms. The ice cream was a nice trip for jobs well done.

  10. PollyS on August 20, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Oh dear! My 6 year old has a bad case of it too! I wish I had the answers. All I’m doing at this point is nagging him to pay attention to where he places things and have designated spots for his treasures. So far? It’s not working too well. But who knows if I’ll get through sometime in the future? Keep us posted on how you progress.

  11. chocolatechic on August 20, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I read the book “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours” by Dr. Kevin Lehman. It is hilarious, but it also has so much wealth of information on how to get your kids to take responsibility for their own actions.

    He says in there… not to wake your kids up every morning, but get them an alarm. Make them responsible for getting themselves up. Then if they are late for school, etc…it is there fault.

    If there are 2 kids and you take them both to school, and one of them is late, write a note for them, but be truthful “Johnny is late because he didn’t set his alarm”, and then Johnny has to pay the penalty.

  12. CharmingDriver on August 20, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Well, they aren’t my kids but my sister’s kids (6,4,2) that I have custody of right now and as rough as they have had it the last few years (….and they rilly, rilly have), I still believe the most important thing I can give them (other than love and security, duh) is a sense of purpose and importance in the day to day running of the house and our lives. This means even the 2 year old (he will be 3 in January) knows he is expected to put his trash in the garbage can, not haphazardly drop it, the 4 year old helps make beds and put away laundry, the 6 year old helps fold laundry, put it away, set the table. They don’t have a ”chore list” per se but they know if they know they’re expected to pitch in and clean up after themselves to the extent they’re able. They dig it (and the copious praise helps, too), we dig it and it helps keep things moving up in this piece.

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