I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard my kids say “It’s all YOUR fault!” Whether the words are directed at me or someone else doesn’t matter. The truth is, I’d have quite a stack of coins.
How do we help our tweens, teens, and even twenty-somethings realize truth? And why do so many of them get stuck in the cycle of trying to blame others for their mistakes?
One of the things we need to remember is that our kids’ brains will not reach maturity until somewhere around 24 if they are female and closer to 27 if they are male. In addition to that phenomenon, we fail to realize that emotion trumps cognitive thought every time. In other words, the truth might just be too much to handle for them, emotionally. So instead, they choose to blame someone else for their mistakes and frustrations in order to feel good about themselves.
Too often as parents, when we get in those situations where our kids start blaming us, we naturally tend to argue with them. We tell them that it isn’t our fault and that it is theirs. Typically the emotion spins up even more and the shouting match is on. If the emotion doesn’t spiral out of control, we might take the action of trying to reason with them. Again, it’s a typical failed strategy because the emotion is tied to the event. Let’s face it, none of us want to think that our emotional pain is caused by our own mistake. It’s easier to create and believe fantasy over a painful reality.
So, how can we as parents help our kids come to a truthful conclusion rather than continuing to blame others?
Try taking a tactic that might unhook their world of fantasy.
Take whatever their truth is (even though we know it is their illusion) and verbally spin it into a possibility.
I know that some of you are thinking that I’m crazy about now. But stay with me here. If you practice this, it will work most of the time.
Let’s assume that your sixteen year old Shally is upset because you’ve said she can’t go to a party on Saturday night because you already have family plans with cousins who are coming into town. She says its all your fault that her friend Rachel won’t speak to her since you won’t let her go to the party. You might say, “Shally, I’m so sorry that Rachel isn’t speaking to you. If you think that it’s my fault because I won’t let you go to the party, then I can understand why you are so upset with me. I’d be frustrated too if my best friend wasn’t speaking to me because of something my mom did. Do you really think me saying no is the only reason she won’t speak to you?”
Let’s take another scenario. Say that your twelve and fourteen year old are in a tiff and one blames the other for taking his game, when in reality the game belongs to the family. Typically you’ll hear “it’s all his fault!” Try using similar words, “Jake, if you think that the game is yours, then I can understand why you are so upset. I don’t like it when people take my things without permission. Tell me why you think the game is yours.”
Do you see the pattern of similarities in the two situations? Notice the wording. “If you think…then I can understand”, is the key. Those simple words can unhook the emotion of the situation. Not only do you force your child to have to think if what he is saying is true, but you are also validating his feelings in the same sentence. You are giving the other person permission to feel upset if their thinking is in line with the situation.
When we feel that the other person understands us and agrees with how we feel, it allows us to unhook the emotion.
These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;
Dare You to remember that being direct might be speaking truth, but it typically doesn’t lead to peace. Try unhooking the emotion first and see if you can help your tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings think their way to reality.
“Let go…and let God”,