What to do when your child says ‘it wasn’t me!’

Admitting mistakes is tough. Learn how to help your child accept responsibility

5-8-year-old boy covered in paint in art room.

Children 5-8 years of age will often push blame to another person in order to avoid negative feelings and conflict. It is important to understand this behavior and what you can do to encourage your child’s self-responsibility.

Why does my child blame?

Children, like adults, do not like to be wrong or get in trouble. It is normal for your child to blame others for their mistakes. One reason for this behavior is your child yearns for a parent’s approval. Your child may believe you won’t approve if they acknowledge a mistake was made. Here are three reasons your child avoids responsibility or shifts blame to someone else:

  1. Self-preservation: Admitting a mistake is difficult. Your child may be doing it to avoid a potential consequence. It is natural to respond to these situations by protecting yourself.
  2. Shame: Doing something wrong creates feelings of humiliation and guilt. It is easier to deny or blame than to admit fault.
  3. Externalization: Children feel strong emotions and do not yet have the necessary skills to process through them. Instead of accepting and managing their feelings, your child may shift it to someone else or act as though it never happened.

What to watch out for

It is important to observe and understand your child. When you have a good understanding of your child, you will be able to adapt to meet your child’s needs and comfort level. Ask yourself:

  • How frequently does your child blame others?
  • Does it interfere with the daily functioning of those involved?

Excessively blaming others can be a sign of bullying. However, just remember blaming is normal behavior for children 5-8 years of age. Keep an eye on the behavior.

Encouraging your child’s self-responsibility

There are several strategies to help your child develop self-responsibility.

  • Respond; don’t react. Avoid arguing, confronting and overreacting.
  • Make it safe and comfortable for your child to come forward and tell the truth.
  • Be empathetic and validate your child’s feelings and concerns.
  • Allow independence in daily tasks and routines.
  • Be available to help problem solve and work through difficult situations.
  • Model responsibility and honesty.

Remember, learning responsibility takes time and consistency. Provide opportunities to teach your child how to accept responsibility and how to learn from his or her mistakes.

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Posted In Children's, Parenting