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Why Blaming Parents Doesn't Work

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

When a person witnesses a child throwing themselves to the floor and yelling bloody murder in the middle of the produce section of the grocery store, they look around for someone to blame. Who is responsible for whatever abominable child-rearing practices must have caused such a tantrum? They notice the exasperated parent attempting to calm the child. They point the finger: Aha! They experience a sense of superiority as they walk away, thinking "that never happened with my kid! I never would have allowed it!"

In reality, this witness is experiencing a natural and understandable gut reaction to a tantrum. They are not considering:

  • The societal context in which parents are untrained, unpaid, and undervalued.

  • The reality of child development, both typical and atypical.

  • The role that our temperaments play in our behaviors.

  • How emotional regulation works and what happens when one's nervous system gets overloaded.

  • Any life events that may be occurring in that family that contribute to such a meltdown such as divorce, death, deployment, a sick child, financial hardship, or mental health problems.

This is not to say that parenting does not play a role in our children’s behavior. Parents provide the social and emotional environment that a child grows up in. How we talk to our kids, respond to their needs, and what coping strategies we model all come into play. This is the good news because we can learn to parent with confidence, competence, and joy. All this is easier said than done.

The first step is to understand that the "blame the parent" mentality needs to shift. Consider that your relationship with your child is one of the most important you will ever have. Think about the societal impact of child-rearing: we are literally shaping the future when we raise children. And yet, we parents are often inexperienced, untrained, and unsupported. Our society sets us up to struggle with parenting.

Of course, our own upbringings usually influence how we parent. Unfortunately, many of our parents and caregivers were recovering from their own childhoods and not able to be fully present during ours. We may react to our experiences by repeating unhealthy parenting practices or vowing to do the opposite. We may know how we don’t want to parent but how do we learn how we do want to parent? Where are the resources to empower us to thrive in the rewarding and fulfilling practice of parenthood?

You can imagine where I am going with this. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my family coaching practice and here’s why: I make it my mission to provide families with the opportunity to work on improving their relationships by offering relevant strategies. This process is not easy, because it involves digging deep and taking a good, hard look at what is working and what it not working in your family.

We set the stage together for a transformative experience by developing an awareness of how guilt and shame influence our parenting practices. This realization helps combat the natural defensiveness that arises when we talk about our parenting with others. Through the coaching process, we learn how to be aware of this defensiveness and learn how to move through it so that we are excited to learn, open to new ideas and practices, and able to take an active role in parenting consciously.


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