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HomeHealth & BehaviorSocial Skills

Ask the Experts

My Son Blames Everyone Else

By Dr. Michelle Alvarez, Consulting Educator

Question:

When my second-grader does something wrong he blames everyone else but himself. He sees what everyone else did to get him into trouble. I want him to see what he did and try to learn from his behavior so he doesn't repeat it. After we talk with him about whatever happened, he just goes about his business as if nothing ever happened. It seems that what we say goes in one ear and out the other.

My husband and I have thought about having him write in his journal about exactly what happened, what fault was his and how he can prevent it from happening again. I wanted to know your thoughts on this and what advice you might have to work on correcting the problem.

Answer:

I understand why you are concerned about your son blaming others for things he does and not accepting responsibility for his actions. It appears you have tried some strategies that have not changed the behavior.

Given the basic information you have shared I would try a behavior chart to reward the desired behavior when it occurs and withhold a reward when he is blaming others. You will need a chart for school and home. Or target one setting first, the one in which the behavior occurs the most often. Write the goal on the chart and with your son, come up with a list of rewards he can earn for accepting the blame for something that he has done.

You want to catch him being "good." If the rewards are motivating to him, then he is more likely to work for them. The rewards could include lunch time assisting the teacher with a special task. Make sure the teacher is on board with the plan. Have the teacher track the behavior daily and send the chart home so you can see it. The frequency of rewards (daily, weekly) will depend on how often your son needs them to remain motivated. You can begin with daily rewards and move to weekly ones.

Continue to let your son know that it is OK to make mistakes, but it is not OK to blame others if he has done something wrong. If this strategy does not work, try changing the reward, the frequency of reward and continue to keep your son involved in designing the process.

If you are very concerned about your son's behavior it is important to have him evaluated so you can rule out any issues that may be contributing to his behavior. You can seek this assistance from a licensed social worker, psychologist or counselor in your community or school-based support staff such as a social worker, counselor or psychologist). These professionals can gather information from you and talk to your son to identify the root cause of the behavior.


Dr. Michelle Alvarez is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Indiana and project director of Safe Schools/Healthy Students for the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. A former school social worker in Pinellas County, Florida, she is co-editor of School Social Work: Theory to Practice and chair of the National Association of Social Workers, School Social Work Section. She is also the parent of a special needs child.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/16/2008:
"Thank you for the Q & A on this topic as well as the great links! I was looking for behavior/reward charts to help my 2nd grader with Asperger's. We'll definitely benefit from the resources provided here. Thank you."
01/15/2008:
"I think the journal idea this family was considering is a very good idea. The sticker chart is not a bad idea, however, the emphasis remains on the adult making the value judgments rather than the child. This keeps the child externally driven. The good thing about journaling what happened and what SHOULD have happened allows the child to own his behaviors. The other bonus, is that you have a record to refer to, should the same misdeed occur again. It would be very powerful to be able to send the child back to his OWN writing to evaluate his progress, and to discuss why he made the same bad choice again, after putting into writing a better alternative."
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