Who’s at Fault?


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


We live in an interesting time. It is a time quite different then 100 or even 50 years ago. With the development and refinement of the Social Sciences it has become increasingly common to read or hear of counselors, psychologists, judges, and even the neighbors “blaming” the parent when a child misbehaves or gets in trouble. This idea is unique to our time.

The “soft sciences,” such as Psychology and Sociology, have conducted research with some forgone assumptions. Using ideas lifted from the true sciences of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. Social Sciences have assumed that behavior is created or caused. The conclusions reached blame the environment. It is assumed that children raised in a poor environment have no choice. They are automatically flawed. There is nothing they could have done or can do. After all, “Look at the home life they had growing up.” Such individuals, according to our modern day thinkers, needs to be “pitied.” “taken care of,” given a break,” or at least “understood.” After all, the research indicates, they are not responsible. They had a poor upbringing.

When you stop and think about this type of thinking, it becomes obvious that it flies in the face of common sense and runs counter to the ideas that our forefathers used to found our country. Our founding fathers believed that no matter what circumstances you found yourself in, no matter what you had been exposed to, that you could make yourself into whatever you wanted to be. They felt that each individual determined his or her own destiny. It is harder in this day to make it by yourself, but if you do not blame others for you circumstances in life you have a better chance of success.

It is difficult if not impossible to measure or even know what is going on inside another human being. Perhaps this is why the Social Sciences are so far off base. Perhaps this aspect of human behavior will never be studied “scientifically.” Perhaps this is why each of us should never blame a parent for a child’s behavior.

Don’t get me wrong. Just as children are responsible for their own behavior, so is the parent responsible for his or her behavior. Choosing to be a cruel or neglectful parent does not create a child who is flawed but it certainly creates a parent who is flawed. Choosing to be a cruel or neglectful parent does not inevitable result in children who lead unhappy and unproductive lives but it does make it more difficult for the child to grow and decide who or what they want to be.

What implication does this discussion have for the parent who lives with or has a child who makes unwise choices?

1.    First of all, don’t blame yourself for your child’s misbehavior. Because you love your child, work to help him or her but do not waste your energy blaming yourself or wishing you had been a different parent. You did the best you could. Keep learning and keep doing the best you can.

2.    Don’t accept the responsibility for your child’s behavior. Even if your child says that what he or she did is your fault, don’t let them “hook” you. Let your child know that you are not responsible for their decisions. They are.

3.    If your child gets upset or mad at you recognize that their anger is their problem, not yours. If you can get good at this one your child will probably up the ante and get very angry. If they tell you to, “Go to Hell.” Don’t do it.

4.    Become good at asking this question when your child creates a problem for themselves or blames you for something that happens in their life. Ask them, “What are you going to do?” You are not responsible for fixing or rescuing you child. If you do decide to “take care” of them or their problems, you must recognize that your child’s capacity to responsible and make good decisions may be delayed.

5.    Have high expectations for your child. Knowing that you expect them to be responsible individuals may help them decide that that is what they want to be also.

6.    As your children make decisions in life, let them know that you are there to assist or guide them. Let them know that you love them no matter what decisions they make. Let them know that nothing can stop you from helping them learn to be a happy and responsible person. But that their happiness is their responsibility, not yours.

7.    Learn to enjoy life. Be happy yourself. There is nothing that confuses a child more then to observe a happy parent. When you are happy the child recognizes that they do not have the power to make you anything. They recognize that you are going to take care of yourself and be happy in spite of their stupid behavior. When this thought strikes them they may decide, since you are not affected by their behavior, maybe they should be.