Time after time, our faithful dogs have unwittingly taken the fall for us. Blamed for eating homework, digging up the garden, and countless other transgressions, poor innocent Fido is a natural scapegoat, there to accept the undeserved blame for us.

Blame-shifting is a regular practice for children as they are figuring out the ropes of life. From the children’s perspective, they love their parents and don’t want them to be mad. Even though kids don’t mind pushing the limits of proper behavior, they will do all in their power to avoid getting caught. Phrases like, “He started it,” “She made me do it,” and “Not me!” are typical of wee blame-shifters. Good news, though—with decent parenting, these habits can be nipped in the bud.

Part of growing up is learning that we must assume responsibility for our own actions. After all, the best of us will experience defeat, setbacks, and failures in our personal and professional lives, and not just once. Whether the blunder is a mere hindrance or a cringe-worthy fiasco, your response to it exposes a defining choice—either we make excuses and assign blame, or decide to be accountable for our own actions that led to the trouble and opt to make changes.

Maturity commands that we put away childish habits and stop the blame game. We all know the sort of person I am talking about—those who habitually blame others for everything negative that happens in their lives. Inevitably, these unremitting fault-finders will earn reputations as untrustworthy. Let’s face it: who wants to be in a relationship (personal or professional) with someone knowing that, at the first (and every) hiccup, she will be quick to throw you under the bus.

A “blamer” is all about saving face and will avoid looking into a mirror to figure out what went wrong. This self-focused behavior is not only self-serving, it is short-sighted. Blaming fosters distrust, signals weakness, and stunts personal growth. When you blame others, you cede control of your own ability to succeed by completely bypassing the opportunity of learning from your mistakes. This is precisely the lesson that your parents were trying to teach you—mistakes are opportunities for personal growth and self-improvement.

Accountability is the opposite of blame, marking a preference to learn from mistakes and take ownership of our own actions. Being accountable focuses on the future and embraces a choice to make improvements after a misstep rather than to assign undeserved punishments to others. Accountability breeds respect and spurs personal development. To accept responsibility requires courage. My advice—choose the better path and claim the rewards of fessing up.

I’m here if you need me. Until then, y’all behave.