stop making excuses

The Top 10 Excuses Children Make

“Become legendary.” A Michael Jordan commercial ends with that message. What constitutes a legend anyway? Is it uniqueness? Dedication? Perseverance? Sacrifice? Sure. But, the most important ingredient for any would-be legend is a great passion for the task at hand. Passion and desire can conquer mountains. Those who accomplish great things never look for convenient reasons why they can’t reach a goal. They are just focused on the goal or just figured out how to stop making excuses.

So, how do we teach our children this quality? What can we do to teach them to lay down their excuses as to why they can’t and to figure out how they can? Here is a list of the top 10 excuses children make and how you might counter them.

1. I’m not smart enough.

Some children are easily intimidated and lack consistent self-confidence, especially if they have a learning disability. When these kids feel overshadowed by their peers’ accomplishments, a common go-to defense is to blame it on a lack of intelligence. “I’m not smart enough, so I just won’t try.” As parents, we constantly need to work on encouraging our children’s self-assurance. Help them to hone their best abilities while learning to smooth out the rough edges created by their weaknesses.

2. It’s too risky.

No great gain ever came without tremendous risk. There is a difference between stupidity and risk. Stupidity is riding a bike off the roof of a house while your buddy films you. Risk-taking is taking a chance on something worthwhile and knowing you might not be successful. Making the attempt is the success rather than the actual outcome. Give them the freedom to try and fail.

3. I’m not big enough.

“I’m not old enough to read that book yet,” your kid might say—even though your second grader is reading on a fifth-grade level and easily could do it. Maybe it’s “I’m too small to play basketball,” even though your son loves the game and has speed and skills. All kids are unique and their development stages are not one size fits all. Children skip grade levels. Small kids excel at sports. It happens, but not with excuses. The late Sam Mills, an undersized linebacker in the NFL, is a great example to research. Everyone said he was too small for the NFL. His statue stands proudly outside the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

4. I can’t do it by myself.

If your child feels he must always have help from others to achieve, then a behavior modification is in order. Yes, teamwork is essential and equally as important. Yet individual drive and responsibility for one’s own actions are vital to personal achievement as well as overall team success. Pick some challenges for them where you are willing to step back and let them struggle. When they overcome, they will start to build confidence in their ability.

5. I’m scared.

Fear is natural and sometimes healthy. Sometimes, it’s a warning to steer clear. Other times, it’s an excuse not to move forward. We can’t leave the training wheels on forever. Eventually, they have to come off, and we must learn how to ride unaided. A parent’s natural instinct is to protect our kids at all costs. Our daughter looks us in the eyes and says, “Daddy, I’m scared to try.” We hold her tightly. The next moment is crucial. Do you allow that fear to stall her development? Reassure her with lots of love, and have her face her fear.

6. I’m too different.

When American music legend Waylon Jennings first went to Nashville, he was told that everyone had high hopes for him. They said he would be just like Hank Williams. The problem was he wanted to be like Waylon Jennings. He rebelled against the formula and earned the label “outlaw.” Later, after gaining great success on his own, he wrote a song called “I Don’t Think Hank Done It This Way” as an answer to those early expectations. Every person has their own unique vision and talent. Allow your children to be who they are. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but imitation never made a legend.

7. We’re too poor.

Kids from lesser means understandably feel intimated by children who appear to have more. If you are a family of meager means, do not allow your children to use that as an excuse not to dream as big as they can. The capabilities of children have nothing to do with social standing or economics. Let your children know you believe in them. Each human brain can achieve great things given the opportunity to thrive.

8. I don’t feel like doing it.

“I don’t feel like cleaning my room.” “I don’t feel like doing my homework.” Consider setting up behavior charts that reward positive and punctual results. You could also implement a list of tasks and chores to be completed each week in a timely manner. The reward could be a special privilege or an out-of-the-ordinary treat. This sets a standard of personal discipline, strong work ethic, and not making excuses.

9. It’s too hard.

Most things worthwhile will involve bumps, rock, and pitfalls that are difficult to navigate. It’s in these difficult moments that character is built in our kids. In the face of the road hazard, does your child back down and just give up? “It’s too hard and I just can’t do it.” Encourage and motivate during these times to take the opportunity. Remind your child that every great story ever told involved overcoming struggle.

10. I can’t because of what happened.

“Since my parents divorced, I don’t think I can do that anymore.” “I can’t because everybody loves the new baby and not me.” Be aware of life’s sudden changes and the impact they have on your child’s demeanor. It’s perfectly understandable and even expected that these major life events will have an effect on your child’s behavior. If, after a time of adjustment, your child continues to use the life event as an excuse, then you know you have a problem. Face the problem head-on, stop making excuses, and encourage your child to take personal responsibility and stand on her own two feet.

Sound off: What is the best way to stop making excuses?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What was a time when you accomplished something difficult?”