Excuses excuses

Source: healthylifecarenews.com

How many times have you heard another parent make excuses for their children’s behavior? How often do YOU make excuses for your child’s behavior?

There are many factors (personality, age, birth order, etc.) that affect who our children are and who they will become. But for many parents, it’s often easy to blame those factors when their children are showing undesirable behavior or attitudes.

What’s important to realize is that those many factors may explain the attitude or behavior you’re seeing, but they don’t excuse it. Help your child overcome any limitations that limit his character.

Here are a few of those factors that are often used as excuses:


We all have inborn personality traits. Until I saw it in my own kids, who are so very different from each other, I didn’t fully comprehend how much of our personality is inborn versus how much is developed over time. Don’t use your child’s personality as an excuse for rudeness, disrespect, lack of self-control or any other undesirable trait.

Stop yourself when you hear phrases like, “Oh, he’s all boy,” or “She’s just quiet.” Accept these traits, but also work with your child to help them overcome them when the need arises.

“‘But she’s shy,’ blurted a mother apologetically. While shyness itself is not morally right or wrong, it does have moral facets. Shyness is not an acceptable excuse for disrespect. It cannot be used as a legitimate excuse for disrespect, because temperamental strengths and weaknesses do not exempt a child from right moral responses. If someone says hi to your child, the correct response should be, at least, hi,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 101).

If you find yourself confronted with a situation that your child handles poorly because of a personality trait, simply smile at the person involved and say, “I’m sorry; we are working on this.” And then when you get home, teach your child how to speak politely, gain self control, or whatever trait it is that you’re working on.

Ages and stages

There’s no doubt that our children’s ages affect who they are. And they go through developmental phases that define their personality for a time. Just as you would with personality traits, don’t use the child’s age as an excuse for poor attitude or behavior.

It’s pretty obvious that you would work with a two-year-old to limit tantrums, especially in public and in response to a friend. But it may not be as obvious to work with older children. Understand that other phases are just as important. What would you do if:

  • Your 5-year-old suddenly starts fighting with his siblings?
  • Your 7-year-old starts whispering and telling secrets with friends, as he gains independence from mom and dad?
  • Your 10-year-old walks around with a haughty attitude and inflated ego as peers lavish attention?
  • Your 13-year-old challenges your authority, arguing that her friends’ parents aren’t so strict?

No matter what the developmental phase, our children will change over time and will quite likely pick up some undesirable habits. Don’t blame the age and expect that it will go away. Quite possibly, ignoring the issue will make it worse!

“Sibling conflict is not simply a phase that children go through. It is a moral problem that desperately needs correcting. Although sibling conflict is frustrating for any parent to observe, it is possible to carry out the first principle between siblings, but it will take consistent hard work,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 105).

Birth order

In The Birth Order Book, Kevin Leman lays out the personality traits that we all gain based on our position in the family. First-borns are often perfectionists and take on leadership roles with siblings. They often insist on order and routine. Middle children often take on a peacekeeper status. The babies of the family often become the family comedian.

Again, while it’s important to understand how birth order affects our personalities, we cannot use it to excuse attitude and behavior. You might see birth order differences come out in the way the children speak to each other:

First born: “You can’t do it that way. It has to be this way. You’re doing it all wrong!”

Middle child: “Why can’t you guys just get along?”

Youngest: “I want to do it my way. You’re being mean to me. I’m going to go tell mom.”

In response to such remarks, the Ezzos say:

“Your children should never speak rudely to each other. Evil intended remarks such as, ‘I don’t love you,’ ‘You’re ugly,’ or threats like ‘I’m going to tell,’ are unacceptable. Keep watch! Training children to restrain their unkind speech is one of the most overlooked areas in parenting,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 107).

It’s not just luck

Understand that children don’t behave well and act morally through dumb luck. It takes parental training and resolve.

“Morally trained children know how to respect property, age, and peers. Such children are a joy to be around, because they are complete, equipped with moral reason. They are not the product of chance or genetics. People will mistakenly say to these parents, ‘You’re so lucky to have children like that.’ But it’s not luck, it’s the result of consistent, persistent, parental training. These children’s actions demonstrate humility of heart, which is what real character training is all about,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 109).


  1. I was looking at your tags for siblings and didn’t see any? I am in the process of rereading Childwise and should look at the pages you have referenced as do they say how they’d handle the situations?
    I have 3 but my 2nd was the youngest until recently and it not a peacemaker for sure….in fact she likes to annoy and irritate. (All same gender). My 1st is always telling me what the 2nd is doing to bother her but I don’t feel I should referee things all day long (ages 5 and turning 4) and I’m also use Love and Logic and try to teach her to solve the issues…….so I might give some ideas for her to do. But it’s the same things over and over. The 2nd is doing something to annoy the 1st. So I tell DD1 she can play by herself and ignore her,etc. DD1 has trouble coming up with ideas always and DD2 is persistent as she will stop briefly but the root behaviour is the same daily. Do you have any general tips on sibling relationships? They get along great and are great playmates most of the time and we are working on kindness and character development in general. I think part is my 3 year old is in that testing phase….probably partly an age thing as i recall with DD1 around this age lots of testing. But anyways I guess I’m wondering what in general to do to foster and strengthen sibling relationships? Thanks!

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