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Kids Squirm When The Buck Stops With Them

I swear, I never thought I could hear so many excuses, so much whining, so much blame on others from my child all at once.  One reward at school was based on her individual responsibility and she dropped the ball.  She wanted to drop that ball on my head instead of her own.  Sound familiar?

Yes, kids really dislike getting called out for something they were lazy about.  And if anyone else is casually involved in the situation, that person may get the blame.  Couldn’t be their fault – no!  Quite honestly, not something many adults like to think about too hard either.  Ahem.

Anyway, back to my example.  She was bent out of shape because she didn’t get my signature on her homework planner.   I had to explain to her several times that I wasn’t getting the reward for signing it, SHE was getting the reward for being sure I signed it.  Of course, I understood the obvious benefits of parents being aware of homework.  But the exercise was as much about training my daughter to develop a habit as it was keeping me informed.  She really wanted that reward but was irked when the details didn’t pan out each time.

I told her that if she wanted to be sure she got every reward she was entitled to for getting my signature, then the final responsibility didn’t rest on me.  It was on her.  I’ve already done all my elementary homework for my life, and I already have calendar habits.  I told her I would do my best to remember each time, but ultimately this was her learning journey.  And darnit, if she didn’t try long and hard to pin that failure on me for a few days.

After several days and a second time of missing the reward, we had the conversation again.  It ended with her sulking, much like before.  I let her alone because I knew we’d been down that road. We talked at bedtime and she was finally open enough to talk about her responsibility without being defensive.  I told her the reason she was so fiesty about it being my fault is that she really didn’t like admitting she didn’t get the job done – and she knew this truth deep inside.  She already knew that I wouldn’t bring her recorder to music class if she forgot it or bring something from her book bag if she left it at home.  Pretty soon she let it all click together in her mind.

Laughing, she said I was mean.  I said that kind of mean was OK by me.  I also told her something I tell a lot of people I work with (probably something I borrowed from a wise mentor) – once you really know something, you can’t unknow it.  She knows her dad and I will hold her responsible for her mistakes and bad choices.  By blaming me, she was pretending that wasn’t true.

Laughing again, she crossed her arms and gave a hmph!  A couple mornings later, she came up to me before school and pleasantly told me that my signature was missing.  I had looked her planner but forgotten to sign the night before.  I smiled at her and told her “thanks” for reminding me.  I have a feeling she’ll be getting that reward this time.

Kids Squirm When The Buck Stops With Them

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Kids Squirm When The Buck Stops With Them. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Oct 2009
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