“Blame is the lie by which we convince ourselves that we are victims. It is the lie that robs us of our serenity, our generosity, our confidence, and our delight in life . . . For it is the act of blaming that can’t co-exist with self-responsibility — or with freedom from inner agitation and strained relationships. Abandon the practice of blaming, and we see the fear melt away that we have associated with being honest about ourselves and taking the full measure of responsibility for our emotional and spiritual condition.”
― C. Terry Warner
It’s likely that when you first thought about becoming a parent, you envisioned fun times, meaningful connections, and perfect family meals. Possibly you never imagined how emotionally challenging it can be to manage the emotions of teenagers: the screaming matches, tears, door slams, constant cautiousness around their moods, or feelings of shame about your home. You may have found yourself wondering how you got there. You’re not alone. As a natural response by the body’s physiology and psychology, the ‘excuse-making processes’ in our brains are in full swing when these events occur. And you are tempted to take one of two solutions: either blaming yourself for the unintended outcomes or blaming others. In a way, we all sort of respond to life’s challenges in this manner.
What do I Mean?
First, you need to understand the concept of the self-serving bias.
It explains the pattern of a person taking credit for positive events or outcomes in their lives (internal attribution) while blaming external factors for the negative occurrences (external attribution). This has a positive angle. When a person blames external circumstances for certain negative occurrences, it could spur one on to try again rather than give in to despair. If a person has been out of a job for about a year and this person blames the economy for his situation rather than himself for lacking the appropriate skill, chances that he will try again are high and the odds of getting a job increases with each try. However, there is a negative angle to this. If perhaps this person is truly poorly skilled but never bothers to improve his capacity but rather blames the government and economy for the harsh reality of his joblessness, then he will never get the kind of job he seeks even if he keeps trying.
So, even though it is human nature to take credit for positive events while blaming external factors for the negatives, a lack of understanding will plunge you into two major extremes. These extremes are what I have found reoccurring in parenting especially in this technology-driven social clime – the extreme of consistently blaming others irrespective of your role in the problem and the other side of the spectrum that blame themselves for every problem even if there was no way that it could have been their fault. This article will be looking at both extremes and how they play out in parenting.
A] PARENTS WHO BLAME OTHERS FOR EVERYTHING
The effect of being on this side of the blame game is innumerable and the negative effect this has on your relationships including that with your adolescent is profound. Here are some compilations that arise from blaming others for every problem you encounter on your parenting journey.
- Stunted Personal Growth: A question asked by Dr Shefali easily comes to mind, “is your child growing you up?” I believe that this is a powerful question you must ask yourself as a parent. One of the many advantages of parenting among others is the fact that it allows you to grow in dimensions unimaginable. Well, that is, if you let it. Your adolescents soak in all your behaviours and actions. It is why you must become aware of the emotions you experience because they reflect it. You can only teach your adolescents those insights you have inculcated in your own life. This explains why the S.T.O.P. principle is an important part of the parenting journey. If your adolescents observe that you are constantly displacing your feelings to others and they witness how you blame others for the negatives in your life, this is exactly how they will live too – incapable of accepting responsibilities for their errors. In blaming others for the problems in your home, for example, the ‘behavioural dysfunction’ of your adolescent, you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to truly grow. You have been entrusted with a life and to properly handle this responsibility you must enter into the “Office of the Parent” [this is discussed in detail in the ongoing parenting course].
- Lack of Empathy: Parenting is a journey that tends to begin with a high level of ‘self’ and if not deliberately monitored, it becomes the energy you take into your relationship with your adolescent. As a result, you may fall into the trap of believing an illusion that you are loving, giving of yourself, and nurturing your children while in actuality you are using them to fulfill some need in your life. It’s how you attempt to heal your broken self. You thrust them into roles in the family that aren’t theirs by right. You use them to affirm your value and sense of worth. Unfortunately, these things are many times done unconsciously. You completely forget that you were a teenager at some point in your life. Empathy is a beautiful tool to use in connecting with your adolescent. Do you remember what your teenage years were like? Do you recall moments you felt misunderstood and hoped you’d be given a chance to explain yourself? Do you recall moments you promised yourself that you would not raise your child in the exact same way you were raised? When you blame others [including your adolescent] for every problem, while absolving yourself of your own role in it, you lose the ability to connect with your adolescent’s core self. You literally lose the ability to empathize. One of the tools needed in parenting in this dispensation is the ability to make your adolescent feel heard, understood and helping them know that their voices matter too. Empathy is the practice of “hurting together” and connecting through hurting. When you blame them for every problem, how do you successfully connect with them?
- Negative Cycles: At TSAGEandTBOG Consult, we curate wellness, wholeness and winning experiences for families, organizations and nations. So, we understand that the journey to wholeness is an active pursuit of all-round development in all the dimensions of wellness. When you blame others repeatedly, you will parent from a place of wounds instead of a place of wholeness. You will become so wrapped up in your own pain that it becomes difficult for you to respond to your adolescents’ needs in the way that they deserve. The repercussion is that your adolescents grow up feeling empty and resentful. With this gaping hole in their hearts, it becomes difficult to form a genuine and intimate relationship with you, their parents and sometimes, even others. This then plunges them to begin to find fulfilment in things that cannot satisfy their longing souls. Thus, a negative cycle is born.
Here is a story I’d like to share. It’s the story of Anabel, a woman in her mid-sixties who is intellectually sound, holds a doctorate, and is a Financial Analyst at a multinational. It had always been her dream to have a child but somehow, neither her desire for motherhood nor getting married has come true. Having been raised in a broken home, Anabel did not understand the concept of stable and present parents. Her mother, a lawyer with a busy practice, was mostly unavailable, and she never knew her father. This meant that Anabel spent her childhood taking care of herself. She felt guilty for suggesting to her mother to attend PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] meetings or her high school graduation. It took her a long time to understand that her mother wasn’t really interested in her because she [Anabel] reminded her of her past [her ex]. Anabel’s mom blames her for the schism between herself and her ex [Anabel’s Dad] because he never wanted a child. As soon as he discovered that she had gotten pregnant, he dumped her. So, she blamed Anabel for that misfortune. When Anabel’s mother remarried, it was to a physically abusive man. Anabel couldn’t believe how a strong and competent woman could allow herself to be humiliated in such a manner. The moment Anabel graduated from high school, she ran away, hanging out with a crowd that did drugs, engaging in promiscuous sex, and living mostly on the streets. After seven years, at age twenty-five, Anabel hit rock bottom and was taken to a hospital because she was suffering from drug-related heart palpitations. Her moment of clarity came in that ER when she realized that she was becoming emotionally paralyzed, just like her mother. Finding a job, she enrolled in school. Her natural brilliance saw her through the University, a Masters degree, and a doctorate. By the time she was forty, she was drug-free and financially stable. Although Anabel appeared successful, internally she was in pain. She was a workaholic and at work, she smashed goals all day. But she used her job to try to fill the longing in her heart because she found intimate relationships suffocating. Unable to trust any man and ready to feel betrayed at the least opportunity, her longest relationship had spanned only three months, which meant she was intensely lonely most of the time. As she felt herself slipping into depression, she lamented, “I have nothing to look forward to. I have run as far as I can from the circumstances of my childhood, yet I still hurt as if I were five. Inside, I’m still that little girl. Doesn’t this pain ever go away?”
B] PARENTS WHO BLAME THEMSELVES FOR EVERY PROBLEM:
The other extreme in the blame game are parents who blame themselves for everything and anything even if the circumstances were completely beyond their control. They just feel that everything is their fault. This is fundamentally wrong. Even though it gives you a false sense of humility, it shows how poor your self-esteem is and it must be worked on. The accompanying package to this extreme spectrum on the blame game is GUILT. It is true that sometimes, parenting is hard! And parenting teens who are struggling can be even harder. But all hope is not lost and guilt should not be given a room in your parenting journey.
Guilt as we have observed in this journey of parenting is of two folds:
- Work-related guilt: This is especially common among working parents who have demanding schedules. In some parts of the world, especially in large cities, 9-5 jobs are no longer truly 9 am–5 pm. When you calculate the wake-up time, traffic time (to and fro) and all other infrastructural and unforeseen factors, you realize that the time spent away from home is increasingly becoming 4 am to 11 pm. The money gotten from these demanding jobs are needed to sustain family life, however, family time is being traded for this to happen. The guilt from not having an appropriate ‘work-life balance’ can be an intense form of guilt for many parents who fall into this category.
- Discipline-related guilt: This occurs when parents feel terribly guilty about reprimanding, punishing, grounding their teen or when confrontations end up in verbal tussles. Guilt also creeps in when parents feel that they might have been too lenient. Many parents today are obsessed with being “perfect”. 75% of parents feel pressured to be “perfect” from friends, family and social media. Parents are literally under so much stress these days, working long hours and spending more time out of the house. When they return home, they want to spend quality time with their children, and when they have to take time out to discipline, they feel guilty. While this feeling might be understandable, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that it’s a dangerous emotion. Guilt is the driving force for most of the bad decisions parents make. As a result, the children of this 21st century dispensation are all about ‘me’, ‘myself’, ‘I’ and ‘mine’.
This is why we are introducing the A.A.H.A. pathway to you in order to ease some of the emotional suffering associated with the blame game and the guilt trip.
THE A.A.H.A. PATHWAY TO BLAME-FREE AND GUILT-FREE PARENTING
We have proposed a four-step pathway to ensuring that you rise above the blame game and the guilt trip on this amazing journey of parenting. We call it the A.A.H.A. pathway. Understanding each of these dimensions and thriving in there, is your surest way to access a guilt-free and blame-free parenting relationship.
A – Authority: The first A, speaks about the rights of the parent in parenting. As a parent, you have the authority and responsibility to direct the ‘ship’ in your relationship with your adolescents. Not knowing that this is an office you operate in as a parent is a major problem. However, if this is all you know, you risk becoming a controlling parent because authority without purpose equals destruction. If as a parent, your rights are all you utilize, you will operate under a hierarchical system of parenting…The end result is an adolescent who will become rebellious, it’s only a question of time.
A – Altruism: The second A, speaks to servanthood. In order to balance out the “authority” you wield, you must remember to be altruistic too. When your adolescent understands that you are a parent with authority, you can give clarity and direction, yet, you are willing to negotiate with them, listen to them [even if you don’t agree with their demands], make them feel heard, you will win their hearts. However, if all you know is the second “A” then it’s also a problem. You will become a passive parent; a doormat and your adolescent will walk all over you because you have no boundaries.
H – Humanity: Your humanity is an advantage. It reminds you that you are a work in progress. It tells you that you don’t need to be the perfect parent 100% of the time. Many parents have paid the price for neglecting their humanity. In their quest to seem perfect, they’ve forgotten to enjoy the little wins and are walking through their parenting journey with so much guilt. As a parent, you will make mistakes. Appreciating your humanity helps you not to stay in the guilt lane. You’re too tired from work and are getting burnt out yet you refuse to have a timeout? You will set yourself up for frustration. Appreciating your humanity gives you balance. It brings to mind your years as a teenager too. It helps you have compassion.
A – Ascent: This is very profound for parents. In Corporate Governance, having a board to defer to in times of difficulties really helps the CEO, don’t you think so? Knowing that the buck stops at your table can sometimes be an inundating experience. Realizing that your every decision can create a lifetime ripple effect is a daunting reality for some parents. It can be overwhelming. But realizing that there is a Grand Organized Designer in charge of the affairs of things, can be of great consolation. Africa is a very religious nation and so being able to defer to a Higher Power to seek counsel is often of immense help. This higher power, however, need not be the Divinity. It can be a coach [like us 😉] who is well versed in your area of shortcoming, guiding you through the tunnel. Understanding that the balance to the shortcoming of your humanity can be balanced by Ascending to higher knowledge is of profound relevance. Identifying who to defer to when salient answers in parenting are needed is the ascent needed to transcend the limitations of your humanity.
What part of this write-up spoke to you personally? Feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org