Teaching your kids to be responsible for their own actions will make them better people.

How to Get Children to Take Responsibility for Their Actions

by Tiffany Raiford

“He made me do it!” “She started it!” “I only took hers because she took mine first!” Of course, your husband made you do it and your coworker started it, but this is really about your kids. Kids often place the blame on others. Maybe they do it because they’re smarter than they look and they don’t want to get in trouble, or maybe they do it because they honestly think their actions were prompted by someone else’s actions. Basically, your kids rely on you to teach them how to take responsibility for their actions.

Stop blaming others. When your kids hear you blaming others for your own actions, they hear a different message. They hear that you did this because someone else did that. The next time you want to complain to your husband about the woman who cut you off in traffic and made you yell out your window, think about the message it sends to your kids. Aside from learning that most people are awful drivers, you’re teaching them to think it’s OK to blame their anger on others.

Watch your words. When your kids are upset or misbehaving, don’t ask them what made them feel/act that way. Ask them why they feel/act that way. When you ask your kids “what” made them feel or do something rather than “why” they feel or did something, you are giving them an opening to blame their actions on others rather than take responsibility for them.

Explain to your children that they are responsible for their own actions and that they have to admit it. When your son tells you he hit another kid in class because that kid hit him first, you need to explain to him that he is not responsible for the actions of the other little boy, but that he is responsible for his own actions and he doesn’t want to be responsible for poor behavior.

Use the old bridge jumping line on your kids. When your daughter tells you that she was mean to her little sister because her friend was mean to her, ask your daughter if she would jump off a bridge into pool of big sharks just because her friend did it first. Sometimes this is the best way to get your children to understand how to take responsibility for their actions.

Create consequences for lying and blaming. No one likes to be reprimanded or punished, so create punishments for your kids when they place blame or lie. Learning that they will get in trouble when they don’t own up to their own actions will make them think twice about blaming someone else for their own actions. Until this plan works, you’ll have plenty of extra free time because your kids will be in time-out so often. Think of all the Tivo you can catch up on in that time.


  • Incorporate a lesson into your kids' lives by teaching them that it is common for other people to make them feel angry or sad, but that only they are responsible for the actions they choose to show because of their feelings.


  • Rebtinstitute: Helping Children Take Responsibility for Their Actions and Emotions

About the Author

Tiffany Raiford has several years of experience writing freelance. Her writing focuses primarily on articles relating to parenting, pregnancy and travel. Raiford is a graduate of Saint Petersburg College in Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images