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My daughter is 4 years old, getting close to 5. She started doing this only recently. When she does something like fall over, or stub her toe, or spill milk, she immediately starts blaming it on whatever someone else was doing at the time, or whatever happened to be in her way. Examples:

When tripping on something: "You shouldn't have been talking to me!"

When running into something in the house, or hitting her head on the counter: "This [part of the house] shouldn't be here!"

When spilling milk: "You shouldn't have put this plate here!"

She takes a lot of things personally, and I think this behavior is an outgrowth of her natural tendency to be hard on herself. It's easier to put blame somewhere else than to accept your personal responsibility when accepting responsibility makes you feel like a bad person, something along those lines.

We're trying to, in the moment, explain to her that it's not someone else's fault, and that's okay. I don't know if dealing with it in the moment is the best way, but it's what we're doing now.

Is this normal behavior from a 4 yo, and how can we help her 1. stop blaming others and, more importantly, 2. help her have a healthier reaction (more self-love) when she does accept personal responsibility?

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At 4yo your daughter is going to pick up language very easily, and she has no real understanding of the meaning, she mimics others.

You may be able to identify who talks this way around her, but you may not, and either way, that's OK.

As her parents, you are the most influential adults in her life, and by making a small change to how you respond when something happens to your daughter, you can correct her blaming language and replace it with language that's kind and loving towards herself.

The change that you can make is to speak first when something happens to her. You'll have to watch and be ready with a response that you want her to mimic, and then before she speaks, you speak.

  • "Opps, the milk is spilled." ~ no blame, just a statement of fact

  • "Oh my, you've bumped your head, are you OK?" ~ a fact, then concern

  • "woopsy' ~ one word non-specific

If you speak first and she still wants to blame, then you can respond by addressing the target of her blame. For example:

  • "The plate is OK where it is, everything's ok."

  • "The countertop didn't mean to hurt you, it's just being what it is, the countertop."

  • "We don't blame the ______. Things happen, it's all good."

Expect that it might take a few days before you see any change. Keep it upbeat and cheerful, and your daughter's natural ability to absorb language will do the rest.

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