Having Kids Take Responsibility for their Actions

No parent wants to hear the information at preschool pick up that their child bit another. I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer my child to be the ‘bitee’ than the ‘biter’… But if certain negative behaviours happen, it is important that kids are held accountable and that they take responsibility for their actions.

It was highly unusual behaviour from Master 5, who has always been a role model amongst his peers. So, it came as quite a shock when his preschool teacher reported that there was an incident that resulted in Master 5 biting another child.

There was a lot of blame shifting, which is very developmentally common for Master 5’s age group. The other child had been trying to kiss and lick him and Master 5 did not want the child in his personal space. Supposedly this was not the first time it has happened, so it would seem that Master 5 was at his ‘breaking point’ and finally reacted.

In this situation, is the default parenting mode coming to the defence of your own child and their behaviour? I guess I could have easily justified his actions, arguing that “it’s never happened before” and that “the other child provoked him”. However, I believe that in instances such as this, defending his behaviour does not serve his best interest and that by having him take responsibility for his own actions, he will be a better person for it.

My husband and I stand as a united front in teaching our children that what we can control in life is our own behaviour and actions. Behaviours are either acceptable or unacceptable and that they always come with consequences. As Dr Phil says, “When you choose the behaviour, you choose the consequences.” Although he was reacting to the other child’s behaviour, in the aftermath he had to consider his own role in the incident and evaluate his part independent of the other child’s actions.

I gave him empathy and understanding, assuring him that I did not condone the other child’s behaviour that preceded the incident. However, I emphasised that taking responsibility for his own actions was important in becoming the best person he can be. After some in-depth discussion, Master 5 agreed that it was necessary that he apologise and we drafted a letter, which he then re-wrote himself.

Master 5's Apology Letter

The following day we drove to preschool specifically to deliver the apology. It would be at least a few days before he was back at pre-school, so I thought it best for the follow-up to be immediate and therefore more meaningful and effective.

Master 5 was surprisingly excited that he was getting the opportunity to make amends. Once at preschool, he pulled the other child aside and read him the letter. He was positively beaming as we drove home afterwards. I could tell that he was proud of himself (as was I).

Consequences for behaviour need to be age and developmentally appropriate. As parents, we should not excuse our children simply because they are just ‘kids being kids’. Nor should we defend their behaviour when it is not appropriate. We are only doing them a disservice if we do not hold them accountable for their actions. Such accountability allows them to grown and mature into becoming the best little humans they can be.

Dee x

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