6 ways to teach your child how not play the blame game

By Janis Meredith | Posted 10/5/2015

Accepting blame is not very popular in youth sports. However, the blame game is.

Kids, parents and coaches like to play it when the game is lost, when a child doesn’t play much, when mistakes are made in the game and so on.

It somehow makes us feel better when we find someone else to blame for problems, even though deep down we know that messes are rarely made by one person.

I like the way author Tommy Newberry says it: “As the opposite of responsibility, blame is so popular because it temporarily liberates you. It gives you a short-term emotional fix; you feel better for the time being. However, blaming others is ultimately immobilizing. It holds you back and cuts the legs right out from under your full potential for joy. Blame is like an emotional dirty bomb.”

Perhaps these thoughts will help you as you strive to teach your child to take responsibility.

  • See the connections. The more experience your child gets identifying causes and effects, the easier it will be for him to accept responsibility for his own actions. When your child experiences the natural consequences of his behavior, help him see that there is always a price to pay for choices he makes. If he chooses to skip practice, he will get benched. If he doesn’t clean his room, he can’t play video games. As he begins to connect the dots, he will see that when he makes a mistake, there’s a consequence, and eventually he will transfer that to accepting blame.
  • Stifle your shock. If you want your child to be truthful, you have to learn to stifle your reactions when he does. Inside, you may be screaming or dying, but if you show your anger or frustration when he’s admitting to something, you may shut him up and discourage him from ever coming to you again. If you stay calm, chances are good that your child will be truthful with you in the future.
  • Learn from mistakes. Your child needs to know that everyone makes mistakes, and when that happens, it’s always better to be honest. When we’d catch our kids in a lie, we always told them we were more disappointed in that than in what they actually did. Use your child’s confession as a chance to talk about learning from mistakes, and thank him for being honest when he does take the initiative to do so. Of course, a confession didn’t meant our kids got off scot-free, but it was always worse when they tried to cover it up.
  • Don’t pass the potato. Help your child to see that not accepting blame or owning up to a mistake is like playing hot potato. One kid blames another kid, who then blames another as quickly as possible, who then passes the blame on to someone else. Passing the blame around doesn’t help kids learn how to fix what went wrong.
  • Stop the blaming words. “You always.” “You never.”These are some of the blaming words thrown around when someone is trying to pass the blame. Unfortunately, many parents set the example. If you want your kids to take responsibility and stop slinging blaming words, show them how to do it.
  • Accept blame and move on. When athletes start learning early on to play the blame game, no one wins. Kids who learn to take responsibility instead of blaming others are more likely to grow up to be adults who take responsibility instead of blaming others.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.