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The anatomy of an excuse generator

- No phony explanations! -

Name: Tall-tale Tammy

Scientific name: Fibulosus innovatis

Age: 9

Traits: Excuse generators always have an exciting adventure to tell and tend to have more excuses than completed homework. From dog attacks to close encounters of the third kind, they regularly manage to find themselves in situations where the final outcome is vanishing homework.

Possible phrases of the Fibulosus innovatis: “It’s not that I didn’t do my homework. I just don’t have it anymore.” “You can’t imagine what happened to me on the way to school this morning.” “I know I haven’t turned in my math assignments for the past three weeks, but every time I start to do my homework this strange beam of light falls into my room.” “Well, here’s what happened … ” “Honest! Do you think I could make something like that up?”

Be warned: Looking for a way out is a natural reaction when faced with negative consequences. When it comes to avoiding confrontation regarding uncompleted homework, young, imaginative minds readily generate excuses to provide a possible way out. Though the story-telling abilities may be entertaining or even cute at first, the habit can affect not only your child’s grades but also his or her credibility and work ethics.

Taming an excuse generator: When creating excuses becomes a regular habit, lying and shirking responsibility can easily become second nature. Experts recommend an emphasis and education on honesty and responsibility in order to turn the child away from the path of a Fibulosus innovatis.

“Make sure your children understand that the responsibility to succeed academically is their responsibility and no one else’s; they need to take ownership of it,” says Jane Richard, a professional counselor at Emerge Ministries in Akron, Ohio, and a parent of three.

Richard says honesty and responsibility can be taught even before kindergarten. Since both are learned at home, she makes the following recommendations:

• Model honesty and responsibility in the home. Your child will look to you to know how to be honest, admit mistakes and take responsibility.

• Let the child experience the natural consequences of irresponsibility.

• Encourage your child to tell the teacher the truth, apologize for not having the homework and commit to do better next time.

• Examine your reaction when your child admits a mistake. Consider ways to make it easier for the child to tell the truth.

Scripture to consider: “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth” (Proverbs 16:13, NIV).

Conclusion: Though the habit of making excuses, if unchecked, can send a child down a path of lying and irresponsibility, these situations provide opportunities to teach important character-building lessons. The earlier these lessons are learned, the more ready your child will be to succeed not only academically but in all areas of life.

Researcher: Jennifer McClure

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