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This week we are talking explanations vs. excuses. One thing I try really hard to instill in Josh is personal responsibility.
I don’t like excuses and I try not to allow him to use them. But the line between an explanation and an excuse can sometimes be hard to differentiate.
So what is the difference between the two? An explanation tells what happened. An excuse shifts blame.
So how do you try to teach your children to give explanations rather than excuses? First, ask what happened! Give your full attention and listen. Our rule is first you can’t say anything about why something happened – only what happened. After all, we asked what not why! After we know what happened we ask why. Then we ask about how the situation made us feel. After we know what, why, and how it’s important to to recap and put it all together. For younger children, you can help them model their explanation but it is important for the older kid’s to come up with this on their own – prompting as needed. I finally ask, was this appropriate and why? Next time, how should you react/what should you do? And most importantly, what can you do to make it right?
Want some examples?
Your child, Max, is yelling.
What happened: Max is yelling.
Why: Max is yelling because he lost a game.
How did it make him feel: Max was angry.
Was this appropriate: No, we have to be gracious winners as well as gracious losers.
Next time: Max should say good job and maybe play again
Make it right: Max should apologize
All together – Max should say: I was yelling at Susie because I was angry about losing. It wasn’t appropriate. I should be a gracious winner as well as gracious loser. I should have said good job and try again. I will make it right by apologizing.
Here is another example.
You find a vase broken in the living room.
What happened: The vase broke.
Why: Mary was running through the living room.
How did it make her feel: She felt rushed. The doorbell was ringing so she ran through the living room.
Was this appropriate: No, we don’t run inside.
Next time: Mary should walk – the people will still be at the door.
Make it right: Mary should offer to help clean up.
All together – Mary should say: The vase broke while I was running through the living room. I ran because I felt rushed to get to the door. It wasn’t appropriate, the people would still be at the door if I would have walked. Can I help to clean up?
It’s ok to explain why you/your child made the choices they did. As long as they don’t shift blame! And sometimes, just sometimes we do have a valid excuse! But by answering the questions and ‘filling in the blanks’ above will really help you and your child! What will it teach? It teaches communication, honesty, responsibility and problem solving. All super important life lessons.
Explanations vs. excuses. How do you teach your children the difference?