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Attitude Makeover: Irresponsible

Step 4. Don't Excuse Excuses
Irresponsible kids often try to get out of their responsibilities by making excuses (or fibbing, inventing justifications, or lying). So set a new family policy: "We do not excuse excuses." Then the very next time your kid tries shirking his responsibilities with an attitude, enforce the policy, and help him find a solution to his problem so there is no excuse.

Suppose your kid makes an excuse for his misplaced library book: "How can I remember where it is? I can never find anything around this house!" Your response to the attitude is: "That's an excuse. We don't make those in this house. We're going to figure out right now what you can do so it won't happen again." One excuse-busting solution that a parent and child created was to have the child set aside a box near his bedroom door for his library books; then he taped a big card to the box with the due date plainly visible. The result: no more excuses or lost library books. Here are a few more examples of kid excuses turned into solutions:

  • "I was too busy to put my toys away." A young child draws himself a picture of a box or shelf as a reminder that the rule is: "Not later but now" or "As soon as you stop playing, you put your toys away."
  • "I didn't know what time the game started." Your kid writes his time schedule and posts it on the refrigerator or bedroom door. A young child can draw a clock face showing the time.
  • "I forgot to give the note to you." Your child sets aside a basket near the front door. As soon as he walks in the house, he must empty his backpack and put any teacher notes in the basket.
  • "It got too late to do my homework." The new house rule is: "Homework must be done (and done well) before play or entertainment."
Step 5. Set A Consequence if the Bad Attitude Continues
If your kid continues displaying this attitude, it's time to set a consequence; your child must learn to be accountable for his actions. There should be a consequence, and the most effective ones always fit the crime, cause a bit of misery (so your kid will want to change his attitude), and are consistently enforced. Above all remember, no more excusing your child and no more "rescuing." Here are a few examples of logical consequences for being irresponsible:
  • Didn't clear up a food mess. If your younger child has left her ice cream cone to melt on the counter, enforce the rule: "No more ice cream cone for two days."
  • Forgets to put dirty clothes in the hamper. If your kid doesn't put her dirty clothes in the hamper, she won't have clean ones and must wait until the next wash cycle.
  • Failure to do chores. If kids are paid for chores, withhold their allowances.
  • Destructiveness of property. Anything that your kid broke, tore, or lost (whether the property belongs to your kid or another), he must replace or repair it. He also must pay for it by earning the money. If he has none, make a list of house chores he can do with an appropriate price value (vacuuming: $2.00; raking: $3.50) to pay off the damaged property.
  • Unfinished assignments. If homework isn't finished by a predetermined time – ideally, the same time each night – your kid knows he will lose a desired privilege either that evening or the following day.
  • Forgets to bring lunch money. She doesn't eat lunch that day, and she will survive. Chances are also high she will remember to bring money in the future, especially if she knows you won't be rescuing her.
Step 6: Reinforce Responsible Actions
Change is never easy, especially when kids have been using irresponsible attitudes for a while. So don't expect instant success in this makeover. Do also remember to acknowledge your kid's effort for trying every step of the way and celebrate improvements – for example:

"Jeremy, it took courage admitting you were responsible for breaking the neighbor's window. Thank you for your honesty."

"Kim, I noticed you finished your work before watching TV. That was being responsible."

Next: Resources >>

From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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