As a parent I have messed up, I have made mistakes, I have reacted angrily and lashed out. It’s not what I wanted to do. But in a way, it was understandable. Parenting is hard. We were never taught how to parent. In fact, many of us were raised by people who also lashed out and then blamed us for making them lash. It’s understandable that we would repeat the same pattern…unless we revisit some things.
So, let’s revisit some things
A question for you: Who really is responsible for you getting angry? You or your kids?
For me, I’ve made the decision to be responsible for how I act. I try to avoid the mindset and the language of “you are making me …..” as much as possible. Why?
- “You’re making me angry” blames my children for my immature or unregulated reactions, and stops me from being responsible for my own feelings. It’s actually disempowering and I choose an empowered life. I choose the way I want to feel.
- I am not a passive recipient of my children’s behavior. They don’t have control over my feelings and reactions, nor should they. That would not be a good situation. I need to be able to lead by example in a composed and controlled way.
- I don’t want to model to my kids that someone else is responsible for or can control my feelings. I want to model for them mature behaviour in the face of frustration. Kids learn by watching.
This is why blaming children for our bad behaviour is really toxic:
“You make me so angry” blames children for the parent’s poor behaviour, or the parent’s poor control over their own behaviour. Children become the scapegoat for the adult. The one who is less developed and supposedly learning from the wise parent, somehow becomes the one responsible for the poor behavior the “wise parent”. This is twisted.
The lesson the child learns is this: Parents don’t have control themselves, but children have to. There are no consequences when parents lose their cool, but there are definitely consequences children losing their cool. Children learn that if you have more power than someone, you can and should blame them for anything you’d like to blame them for. You can and should use power and authority to push people down rather than lift them up.
Children learn that truth is not about truth, truth is about who has more power.
Another thing the “you make me” language inadvertently teaches is victimhood. Because the parent doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions, he demonstrates disempowerment and disconnection from his own life. A child sees this and learns that it’s okay not to take responsibility for your own actions. A child learns that he has no choice over how he feels. Other people can make him feel certain ways.
This language is also a dead end in terms of building healthy relationships or solving problems togethers. The aim of blaming is to end a conversation, not to begin a dialogue. Blaming is meant to condemn someone not to cooperate with them. How can we be so surprised when children don’t willingly want to share their lives or cooperate with us as they grow.
Lastly, It stops us from growing as parents and individuals. If you make someone else responsible for your problems, personal growth becomes impossible.
But, here is the real downside to all of this. The healthy development, the mental and emotional health of your child can suffer. If blamed enough, children internalize some unfortunate and hurtful messages like these:
- “You are responsible for the way I feel”
- “You are to blame for me treating you badly or hurting you”
- “You deserve to be treated like this”
- “You are responsible for the problems in this house”
- “Who you are is not acceptable”
- “There is something wrong with you”
- “You need to change”
- “You need to behave the way I want you to in order to be accepted”
How about you personally? Have you internalized any messages like these? Did you often feel unfairly blamed as a child? These messages are harmful and can lead to the creation of some serious negative beliefs about oneself. I’m sure no parent wants to pass this on.
I know that we can choose something different. We can choose personal responsibility, maturity and we can choose to “own our own stuff”. We can choose to be the parent our child needs us to be.
I’ll leave you with something that may help you think of things differently: Here is a story about me realizing that my kids don’t make me anything. Rather, I make me, I choose the way I think and act.
I noticed that I tended to blame and use the “you make me” thinking when I was stressed, tired, or otherwise not feeling confident. The degree to which I blamed my children seemed to have more to do with me than them. It seemed that my response to them had more to do with my mood than their actions.
The same thing that angered me one day, I had more patience for the the next. Why on some days was I able to act more maturely and skillfully in responding to challenging behavior, non-compliance, a broken glass, or being late to school? What was the difference?
The difference was the parent. The difference was me. The child did not make me react in a more mature way. My mood was better, I was less stressed and feeling more connected and capable. My kids did not make me act more calmly and skillfully. No. It was me who was able to be more mature, calm, and loving. If it was me who was able to act maturely, it is also me who ask immaturely.
This realization has helped understand the importance of regulating myself, taking care of myself, and instituting a regiment of self care. Also, it has removed any confusion over who is responsible for my actions, stressed or not. I get to choose my perception, I get to choose my reaction.
In truth and love,