Playing the game
You may have played the game yourself. Perhaps a deadline was moved up and you were late for that special birthday dinner with your daughter. Perhaps the referees weren’t on your side, and they lost the game for your team. Maybe the instructions for the assignment were just too confusing. There are a million blames available.
You’ve heard them from your kids. How did that dish get broken? How could you get a D in English? How could you miss that fly ball? What were you doing turning on the power saw? A thousand questions, and a thousand possible blames to escape responsibility.
We’ve heard ourselves play the blame game. We’re not proud of it. But it’s so much easier to blame others than to take responsibility ourselves. There are so many excuses, and we don’t like to take the charge of not coming through or producing a bad product.
Recognizing the game
We took a look at ourselves and what that blame game was doing to our children. When Bill’s son came home from high school and Bill asked him why he hadn’t mentioned the upcoming college meetings, he watched his son contort himself and blurt out, “The teacher never gave us the form.” First, Bill found it hard to believe. Second, he eerily recognized himself in the excuse. His son didn’t want to be accountable for being inattentive or forgetful, so it was easier to pass blame to the teacher. The excuse was available and took the disappointment off him. This wasn’t the first time but it was the time when it became clear that something had to be done to curtail the blame game.
Changing the game
To move in a new direction, it’s important to teach kids that they are responsible for their actions. That means being responsible for preparation, presentation, and execution. If they are assigned a task, whether mowing the lawn, writing a paper for school, picking up an important package, or being at the ballpark at 6 p.m., it’s important for them to plan properly, consider obstacles that might get in the way, remember the assignment and the deadline, follow through, accept responsibility, and understand the consequences of not meeting the expectation.
We used a lot of sweat equity educating our kids about the relationship between getting an assignment, undertaking responsibility, and accepting consequences for performance. It required expecting honesty and, in turn, being reasonable in the consequences we imposed. Did it always work? No. But by creating a better environment, the blame game was played less often by all of us.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.