Ever asked your child why, he punched his sister or didn’t clean up his toys as asked? What often follows is a litany of sentences along the lines of “It was her fault.”, “He made me do it”, “She hit me first.”, “I didn’t know you meant those toys.” Some are silly, some are frustrating, but often they all have something in common.
Many times, when faced with the possible wrath of a parent, a child resorts to excuses. Excuses are your children’s attempt to escape responsibility for their words or actions and the consequences of them. Often excuses are an effort to shift the blame onto someone else. Excuses may also contain partial or absolute lies within them. Nothing good has ever come from an excuse.
On the other hand, reasons can be helpful – both for your child and you. Realizing they failed the test, because they didn’t study enough or ask for help with material they didn’t understand, can lead to productive changes. Reasons differ from excuses in that the person is taking full responsibility for the mistake and sharing what they will do differently next time. Reasons can and often do produce change and growth. Often sentences containing reasons begin with the words, “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done/said that”, followed by the mistake that was made and what will change.
In short, excuses are an effort to avoid responsibility, while reasons are not only an admission of responsibility, but the beginning of a plan to prevent it from happening again. The parallels to Christianity are amazing and scary. The excuse filled Christian is the Christian who isn’t really repenting. They aren’t growing and becoming more godly. They are frozen in a world where their sins are never their fault. Christians who give reasons are the ones more likely to repent, and actually turn away from that sin and make sincere efforts and plans to keep from repeating it again.
So the next time you ask your kids what happened, listen to their responses. Help them learn to tell the difference between excuses and reasons. Refuse to accept excuses. It is an extremely important heart attitude and Christian Life Skill for them to learn.