The First Days

Immediately begin a No Excuse, No Blame Policy in your home. Manipulators rarely accept responsibility—it's always someone else's fault, they think, and so they make up excuses and fault others for their oversights. "How am I supposed to remember? It's your fault." "The coach didn't tell me." "The teacher should have reminded me." Don't allow it. Instead announce that the new operating premise in your home will always be honesty and accountability. Here's how to begin:

1. Gather the masses and state your policy: "From this moment on, no excuses or blaming others are allowed. Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions, duties, work, and schedule." Be really clear on this one: you will not rescue, write an excuse, or do their tasks.

2. Brainstorm the most common issues that cause you, your partner, or the kids to make up excuses and blame others for.A typical list might include: "forgotten" dentist appointments, chores, video rentals, oboe practice, school testing days, homework, and money for lunches.

3. Make a chart, checklist, or schedule so everyone is clear on their responsibilities, and kids (and parents) can't use manipulative tactics like excuses or blaming others if they "forgot." Post it on the refrigerator so everyone sees it, and you can refer to it as "proof" when needed. Picture charts can be substituted for younger manipulators. Here are a few ideas:

Charts. List chores, expectations, and rules. Calendars. Write personal schedules (appointments, homework schedules, practices, recitals, parties, events, library book due notices). Consider purchasing a weekly or monthly calendar printed on a white board.You can then write on it again and again with washable pens. Contracts. Put behavior agreements and consequences for manipulation infractions in writ-ing.All relevant parties should sign it. Refrigerator magnets. Purchase one magnet per family member. Any special events, notices, or reminders are then clipped to the magnet and remain visibly on the refrigerator. Hint: Sometimes the best reminder is a single word written on a note card and attached to the magnet: "Chores." "Homework."

The key to a successful No Excuse, No Blame Policy is simple: don't accept any excuses,guilt, orpass-the-buck tactics from your kids. Manipulation works only if you let it work. So don't let it.

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