Excuses, Excuses

I can see it coming; the inevitable list of reasons why the job didn’t get done. She forgot; she was distracted; someone was bothering her; she doesn’t want to (that is an ever popular one). Sigh… here it comes, the excuses….

Before you think me too cold-hearted, here me out. I fully understand that sometimes there are valid reasons for not accomplishing something. We all have off days or things that pop up to prevent us from meeting our responsibilities. No, what I’m talking about are invalid excuses for a flat-out lack of responsibility and a failure to just get the job done.

As a parent, I want to nip this in the bud now. I am not going to wait until she is a young adult looking to find a job or attend college; by that point, it’s too late. Learning responsibility and, just as importantly, accepting poor decisions is an important lesson.

To be fair, one has to ask, “Where did she get this from?” The honest truth… from us adults! We are setting the poor example she is copying.

Instead of just confession, “I’m sorry, I am totally responsible for not being here on time”, I instead say, “I totally would have been here on time, but the kids just wouldn’t get out the door!” While this might, in fact, be true, whose responsibility was it? If I know my kids take a while to get out the door, it is my fault for not training them better or planning enough time to accommodate them, not theirs. Mommy needs to be setting a better example.

I think we’ve all met those people who have an excuse for everything. College professors, my sister-in-law included, could probably provide an almost endless list they get on a yearly basis. There are reasons we can’t turn in schoolwork, show up to work on time, repay a debt; the list could go on.


As a society, we seem to think as long as we come up with a good excuse for our lack follow-through, we ought to be forgiven and life resume as normal. While I am all for the forgiving part, some seem to think forgiveness goes hand-in-hand with no consequences. “What do you mean you’re failing me for not coming to class? I have a good reason!”

(Sigh) I do not want my children be a part of this cycle. Sure, they are going to make mistakes, but I want them to own up to it. Being responsible doesn’t just mean we fulfill obligations, it also means we own our failures and accept that we need improvement.

Again, because I feel the need to be understood, this is not to say we can never have a valid reason for a failure to follow through. Perhaps that is the key. There is a difference between a reason and an excuse! If I am known to be a responsible person who steps up to the plate, a valid reason for an occasional mishap is completely understandable. However, if I am known for being unreliable, perhaps I am just using excuses to get me out of a jam.

I want our children to understand this important distinction. If this is to be the case, it needs to start with me. I need to be reliable, trustworthy, and honest about my failures. need to own up to my mishaps and accept the consequences, setting an example for them to follow. By my lead, they will learn how to graciously admit when they fail and accept whatever may come.

How do you deal with the excuses your children come up with for not finishing a task?


9 thoughts on “Excuses, Excuses

  1. I hear excuses a lot regarding chores. When this happens, I’ll assign a second chore on top of the first one. I then explain to them that our household will not run smoothly if everyone doesn’t willingly pitch in.
    If it’s regarding schoolwork, it really depends on the how often it happens. For example, although I unschool, my oldest daughter has opted to keep a more school-at-home approach, so, with that comes assignments and due dates. While she is an excellent student, she has a huge problem with procrastination. I could give her three weeks to complete something, and she’ll still do the entire thing the day it’s due. Usually, it works out because she does well under pressure, but last week she didn’t get a project done on time, so I took ten points off because she has to learn that it’s not always feasible to wait til the last minute.


  2. I do not accept excuses. Chores must be done or no tv, games, electronics etc. One time I was really mean and took a book away an entire weekend before the last chapter was read. I try to set the consequences high so they will do what is necessary.


  3. I always use ultimatums – even for myself! When they were younger – there were no extras until the necessaries were done. ie: No ballet class – which had to be arrived at on time – unless school work and chores were finished. Great motivator. Not a pleasant experience to explain to the ballet mistress that you are late or missed class because you didn’t finish your dusting. For me – I do not allow myself to play the piano until all my less enjoyable things are finished. It is my reward.


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