When my child struggles, misbehaves or acts out, I can sometimes get into the trap of blaming myself. I’m guessing that you can relate to this too.
I know I’m not alone in this because in my work with parents, self-judgment and blame are a pretty common pattern. Especially if the parents have an intense child; the judgment comes not just from the self but also from teachers, doctors, social media, and family members too, and it can be a pretty unhelpful and vicious cycle.
In my own experience, at the same time that I might be blaming myself, I know that my child also holds some responsibility for how they are acting and the choices they make.
It’s this concept that I wanted to explore on the blog this week, where we talk about whether it’s the parent’s fault when their child misbehaves.
Someone once told me that humans are the only animals who can hold two opposite realities simultaneously. Humans understand that life is not always “either/or”, that it sometimes is “both/and”.
There are two paradoxical realities that occur in parenting. They might sound like opposites at first, but I think they can both be true at the same time.
Here’s an example… Your child misbehaves in front of other people.
You might feel embarrassed, angry, defensive, annoyed, irritated, or maybe you even feel shame, especially if you’re trying really hard to “do all the right things” in parenting.
You might think, “When people see my child act that way, what will they think of me?” or “My child’s behavior is a reflection of me.”
But is this really true? Are we actually “to blame” when our child loses it? Is our child’s behavior a reflection of us?
What if your child’s behavior is not a reflection of you–or your parenting–at all? What if your child’s behavior is just a reflection of the struggle they’re having at the moment?
Maybe your child’s behavior is an attempt to communicate “I need help over here” or “I’m feeling lonely, hungry, angry, or tired”.
What if their behavior just “is”? Maybe we don’t have to take their behavior personally at all. Maybe your child is having a meltdown because your child is having a meltdown.
Here’s where the paradoxical part comes in…
I also understand that we influence our kids. Our kids pick up on our feelings. We pick up on theirs. We are social beings, intricately connected to each other.
As parents, we have an influence on our kids, through what we say, how we act, or even just our presence. We influence our kids by the genes we’ve passed on to them, the experiences they’ve had growing up, and how we’ve helped them to make sense of those experiences.
AND maybe we don’t need to blame or shame ourselves because of our child’s behavior.
If you paused for a moment you could probably remember a time that you did “all the right things” and your child still had a meltdown. AND you could probably remember a time when your child acted wonderfully, even when you totally messed up in your parenting.
What I’m asking you to try today is to hold in one hand the reality that “my child’s behavior is a reflection of their struggle, not me”, and hold in the other hand, “my parenting influences my kids; we are connected”.
Meditation or Journaling Questions
Do these two realities change your perspective of your child?
Does it give you more freedom or lightness in your parenting?
Does it lift away some of the embarrassment or shame?
Does it give you more compassion for yourself or your child?
You can write your thoughts to me in the comments below. I read and respond to every comment.
Just for today, I invite you to think, “My child’s behavior is a reflection of their struggle–it’s not a reflection of me.”
After reading the blog today, do you want more parenting support from me and meet similar parents?
You and I can personally talk in there if you’re struggling to figure out how to talk to your child.