The “But Everyone Else Is” Excuse
“It’s really not hurting anyone.”
It’s easy to rationalize like this, especially for kids. Remember their brains aren’t fully formed until they reach their early 20s. In the meantime, young people think they’re invincible and don’t think things through.
Perhaps you know this teaching story of the three clergy men and the three politicians? I was just reminded of it today and thought I’d share it with you.
The clergy men and the politicians were traveling together on a train to attend an important function. The clergy asked for three tickets but the politicians only bought one. Puzzled, the men of cloth questioned the others:”How is that going to work?” and were told “Just watch and you’ll see.”
Soon the train pulled away from the station and all were sitting comfortably. Then just before the agent came to collect their tickets, all three politicians piled into the restroom. The ticket collector knocked on the door and yelled: “Tickets!” whereupon the door opened narrowly and an arm stretched out with held a ticket in hand!
On the return trip, the clergy huddled; they rationalized that they could follow the politicians’ example and save the church some precious money by only buying one ticket instead of three. To their surprise, though, none of the politicians bought a ticket. Once again when they asked
the politicians to explain, they said: “Just watch and you’ll see.”
Once the clergy stuffed themselves into the restroom, one of the politicians knocked on the door and yelled for “Tickets!” As soon as the door opened slightly, the politician quickly snatched the ticket and ran to join his buddies in the other restroom!!
The moral of this story is that you might not get caught by the authorities right away, but you’ll get caught up in your dishonesty since it will continue to escalate!
As a preteen, I remember getting frustrated because I never “got away” with anything! Partially, this was due to being an only child (there was no one else to blame!) and my parents were vigilant about having consequences for even the slightest infractions.
Later, as an adult, I thanked my lucky stars to have grown up in a household where I was consistently held accountable for my actions!
Many of the parents I coach come to me for assistance because they are unsure how to handle teens that don’t see anything wrong with pirating music from the Internet, underage drinking or worse: taking or dealing drugs!
The first thing you can do is to cultivate “an excuse free zone.” In other words, do not tolerate any excuses, especially the ones I’ve listed above. These excuses are easy to spot. Start there. Then move to identifying and enforcing appropriate consequences.
Your ability to follow-through on these important steps will significantly impact your child’s future. Don’t leave it up to chance. It’s better to feel somewhat uncomfortable with changing your parenting approach now than to live with regrets.
Barbara McRae. MCC
Campus Calm Parent/Teen Expert
P. S. For additional support on how to craft powerful consequences, refer to chapters: Supportive Communication and Facilitating Growth in “Coach Your Teen to Success.”