IT’S NOT MY FAULT! Building kids who blame

Commentary by Derold Bates, Ed.S

Have you ever heard this blaming statement spoken around your home? “It’s not my fault!”

If you have, you are not alone. Working with young students for many years has convinced me that most have learned this skill.

Here are some ways I’ve seen parents teach their children to blame without realizing it:

A child comes to his parent and complains about something another child did or said. The parent dutifully goes to the guilty party and corrects the misdeed. Who, of these children would you say, just learned, it is to his advantage to blame?

Two children are fighting. The parent comes in and stops the fight then says, “I want to know who started this?” The best blamer gets the lightest sentence.

Another effective way to teach blaming is to blame others when something goes wrong in your own world. If you are not good at this, may I suggest you follow political debates. You might even try counting the blaming statements you hear. The winners are often the most convincing blamers.

If you want to teach your kids to be convincing blamers, start when they are young.

Key phrases that are basic to the language of blaming are: “It’s not my fault.”  “I had nothing to do with it.” “Don’t look at me.”  “It’s his fault.”  “If he would quit doing. . .” “She should not. . .”  Blaming someone else for a problem is giving away the power to solve it.

It is quicker for parents to solve their kid’s problems (tell them what to do, and give out punishments for their mistakes) than it is to teach them how to solve their own problems.  This quick model is used by many parents as a way to stop bad behavior. It lacks the dimension of teaching problem-solving skills to the child and doesn’t provide the child with a new behavior to replace the bad one.

If, on the other hand, you would like your children to take responsibility for their words and actions and learn to solve their own problems, then try this total responsibility plan; each child will accept total responsibility for his own actions.

As you meet with each child, you should get on the same eye level and move within three feet of the child.  Then ask, the first question “What did you do that helped get the fight started?” you will likely get a blaming statement from the child. If you do, you cannot accept it without promoting blaming. Instead you could say, “I understand that he did that but I am not going to hold you accountable for what he did. Who should you be responsible for?”  “Me” will usually be the reply.

Then repeat the first question until an honest answer is given. An honest answer means the child states something he actually did that you believe could have contributed to starting the fight.

After the child’s action is identified that contributed to the fight, you ask the second question. “Did you like the way it turned out?”

Kids rarely do.

Once that answer is given, you ask the third question, “What could you do differently next time, so it will turn out better for you?”

The child plans a better action; a solution to his problem, HIS solution. He may need some time to think about it.  As his parent you encourage him to try his plan and see if it does work out better.

Notice who it is solving his problem?

You should have this discussion with each child. Each one will need to make his own plan to correct his behavior that did not work well and replace it with a better behavior.

This teaches the child to solve his own problems without blaming. As a child does this, he is Taking Responsibility; becoming responsible for his actions and for himself.

More examples of teaching children to take responsibility can be found in “Three Steps to Success in Parenting and in Life” By Derold “De” Bates .Ed.S. See Step 3; Enjoy the Journey,  p 26-37. Find the book on line at, and click on Amazon; Barnes and Noble or Outskirts press. E-mail questions or comments to

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