Today I’m featuring an article by Dr. Henry Cloud that’ll help your kids learn to accept responsibility—using a funny, easy game that just might become an ongoing joke in your family.
Dr. Cloud writes this about helping kids learn to accept responsibility:
“My daughters and I recall with laughter the game that we began years ago to combat blaming and excusing in our house. It began with a dad (me) who was about ready to catch his hair on fire if he heard one more “But she …” as an excuse by one of them when corrected.
If I would say, “Don’t do that to your sister,” I could pretty much depend on immediately hearing, “But Daddy, she kicked me,” or “She called me ____.” It was driving me crazy, partly because I hate blame and excuses, but more so because as a psychologist, I know that not accepting responsibility is the quickest way to a miserable and unproductive life. (Emphasis Jeannie’s.) I was determined to stamp it out.
So, I did three things to help kids learn to accept responsibility. First, the game.
We initiated a sign that would let anyone immediately know that someone was sensing an excuse or an attempt to blame someone else. We used the “W” above the forehead, made with three fingers for “winner,” and the big “L” with the thumb and forefinger for “loser.”
This was a follow-up to my fatherly lecture to them about the difference in winners and losers and how winners admit it when they are wrong and change their behavior, and losers blame others or use excuses.
It was amazing how effective and amusing this ‘accept responsibility’ game became.
As soon as anyone, including myself, would in any way blame anything or anyone, immediately the hands would go up and we would know that we were caught. I knew that this had really worked as I noticed my youngest daughter, Lucy, begin to develop a sly “I just got caught” smile on her face if she would begin an attempt to blame and we would raise the “L.” It got to be a lot of fun at the end.
But all of this was more than a game of sign language.
For me, it was about the life and death of their futures.
One of the problems of being a psychologist is that every time your child doesn’t eat their vegetables or fails to do a chore, you project a lifetime of irresponsibility into their future and see prison sentences, failed careers, and a dozen marriages. I was determined to get this one right.”
You can read Dr. Cloud’s entire “How to Teach Your Teen to Take Responsibility” article that inspired this article here.
Who is Dr. Henry Cloud?
Dr. Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert, clinical psychologist, and New York Times bestselling author of 45 books, including the iconic book Boundaries. His book Integrity was dubbed “the best book in the bunch” by the New York Times. In 2011, Necessary Endings was called “the most important book you’ll read all year.” Learn more about Dr. Cloud at DrCloud.com.
Once kids learn to accept responsibility, they become even greater candidates for debt-free college and career.
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Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to jump directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.