I have a 7 year old son who is a great kid. However there are times when he completely denies responsibility for his actions. For example, the other day my wife took our kids to a splashpad (water type playground). She brought his water shoes in case the ground was hot but he didn't want to wear them. So he played barefoot for a couple hours. Later that evening he was complaining that his foot hurt so we took a look and he had a blister from running around barefoot. He immediately blamed my wife for taking him to the splashpad at the wrong time of day. He blamed her for his blister when he chose to not wear his shoes.

This is just one example, there are more, and we are at a loss on how to teach him responsibility for his choices.

Anyone else having a similar issue or advice on a strategy to handle this?

Edit: To be explicit based on some of the comments, my wife brought the shoes and offered him the shoes to wear. He said he didn't need them. We were unaware of the blisters or any pain until later than day.

  • 6
    Honestly, actual physical damage should not be something you should allow as “consequence for his choices”.
    – AsheraH
    Jul 29, 2022 at 19:23
  • 56
    @AsheraH There's no suggestion in the question that the parents desired physical damage, knew physical damage was occurring, or that they could reasonably have foreseen it. In any case, an accidental blister is par for the course with the normal scrapes and minor cuts that kids get. Jul 29, 2022 at 20:02
  • 5
    Did he get an explanation about what the shoes were for when he was offered a choice? Assuming he was offered a choice rather than simply told to wear them.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 30, 2022 at 0:35
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    @Wayne: if the parents couldn't reasonably have foreseen the outcome, isn't it also fair to say that so couldn't the child? As the question is written, we have no way of knowing whether it is the parents frame of reference for what responsibility can reasonably be delegated to the child that is off the mark, or if we were just given an unfortunate example.
    – user36162
    Jul 31, 2022 at 22:04
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    To be fair, while one can probably not expect such a level of a priori thinking from a 7yo, the foot is attached to their body and they might have felt pain and communicated that. Perhaps this is the potential learning point for what happened. Aug 1, 2022 at 16:08

1 Answer 1


Sounds to me that you are teaching him responsibility for his choices. You let him make a choice, and then let him bear the consequences of that choice.

It won't be instant that he stops complaining and pointing to you - he's spent years where everything was someone else's choice, so that's just human nature. But as long as you gently remind him he had a choice of what to do, and this is what happens based on that choice, he'll get there.

I like to talk to my children about their choices afterwards, and talk about it in the mindset of "what would or could we do differently next time". Think "growth mindset" here - no criticisms for the choice, there is no wrong choice; just what do they think they'd prefer to do differently. And no "I told you so" - reminders that there was a choice, but not accusations they should've listened.

Not this:

Ow! My foot hurts! Why did you take me to that splash pad? It was too hot!

I told you to wear your water shoes, now you see why!

You shouldn't have taken me when it was hot, it's your fault.

See how that immediately falls into "your fault"? It's not him doing the blaming - it's you, first. Instead, do this:

Ow! My foot hurts! Why did you take me to that splash pad? It was too hot!

Oh, that's unfortunate! What do you think we can do next time to avoid getting hurt feet?

I don't know, it just hurts!

What do you think about your choice to not wear water shoes? Do you think a different choice there might have changed the outcome here?

I don't know, maybe?

And then they're thinking about it. They might still blame you or yell or whatever; it's partially them expressing their feelings, and partially because they hold you as the all-seeing-all-powerful-parent, and so everything must be your fault. Getting away from that, and training them to think about how they respond to things - particularly after the fact - helps a lot there.

  • 8
    I would say that if a 7-year-old still sees his parents as all-seeing-all-powerful then a lot of opportunities for teaching responsibility for their actions must have been missed beforehand. One can start teaching that to 2-year olds with situations like this: you get to pick your flavor at the icecream parlor, you chose strawberry, I chose chocolate so now you have strawberry and not chocolate.
    – quarague
    Jul 31, 2022 at 8:04
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    Very good points. Add on top of this, that it is very human nature to place blame on something else. Even grownups have problems accepting their part of the blame. But learning consequences is different from accepting blame; they are two parallel avenues of handling fault. When kiddo tries to place the blame, accept kiddo's emotion, meet him in his emotion (while tactfully not accepting the blame) and steer the conversation away from blame and back onto the "growth mindset".
    – MrGumble
    Jul 31, 2022 at 14:44
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    This sounds good in theory and in practice, but I think a conversation about blame shifting is in order at some time, to identify those times when he will still use blame shifting. Even adults blame shift, so how can it hurt? Jul 31, 2022 at 15:44
  • @Joe, Thank you for this response. I like the blame vs. growth mindset. I would be interested if anyone has had success in teaching 'blame shifting' to kids of various ages.
    – jevs82
    Aug 1, 2022 at 19:21
  • @jevs82 - We're always up fpr questions! Aug 2, 2022 at 23:01

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