We’ve noticed that when we ask questions like, “Oh, who did this?” or “Who made this mess?” or even “Clare, did you spill this?” Our 3-year-old is quick to say it was someone else. And since the only other living beings in our home are the 2-month-old and the pets, the blame usually falls on her dolls, or imaginary friends.
It’s normal, sometimes sweet, and occasionally funny to hear her try and place the blame on something else, and even give a creative reason for why it was that non-existent person.
But really, we shouldn’t be encouraging this…and I’m talking about our behavior as her parents. We’re getting into bad habits asking her questions we already know the answers to, and we’re setting her up to lie to us. We’re setting up situations of blame, and teaching her this is how you approach issues. By finding out who did it. This isn’t a good thing.
Blaming contributes to more lying, less empathy.
So many of us fall into that trap of blaming. As parents, it’s super easy to spend our energy on blame… but why do we do it? And how can we stop?
Have you ever seen the You Tube clip of Brené Brown and her discussion on blame? It’s one of my favorites:
We want to encourage empathy in our child, and we need to start by not focusing so much on blame.
Here are some things we’re going to focus on:
- Refrain from asking, “Who did this?” Especially when we already know the answer.
- When met with a small lie or a “I didn’t do it, it was [insert imaginary friend]” we’ll respond with a simple statement of what happened, for example: “You colored on the wall.” or “You hit your sister.”
- We’ll model empathy and understanding: “I see you want to paint.” or “I understand you’re upset.”
- And we’ll offer alternatives: “Here’s some paper you can use.” or “Tell her you weren’t done playing with that toy, or come and get me.”
This way we’ll limit the opportunities for lying, reduce how often we place blame, and model empathic statements, words, and actions, so our daughter learns healthy ways of handling issues and problems.