Written by Elizabeth MacDonald
Children are generally, to an extent, a product of their environment. Study after study has shown how detrimental it is to have a positive, supportive relationship between a parent and child. And while no parent, child, or relationship is perfect, there needs to be a conscious effort made by the adult to set the ground work for a strong and confident child.
There seems to be a natural swing of the pendulum throughout the generations of parenthood. There was a society once made of extreme discipline, followed by one relaxed and laid-back, followed by another of helicopter parenting, with several variations along the way. The pendulum seems to be hovering in between two drastically different parenting styles right now. So many families throughout this society have realized just how important their time, effort, and relationship is with their children, while others are still strong believers in ‘Do What I Say, Not What I Do” parenting. This typically includes quite a bit of preaching with very little teaching.
While many parents are opening their arms to their children’s differences, accepting them as who they truly are, there are still so many who believe a child is choosing these differences – and that they can be changed. These parents, some teachers, even grandparents are blaming the children for what they have labeled “downfalls.” It has become apparent that placing blame is not only wrong, but can impact children in lifelong negative ways.
It’s safe to say that most parents belittling their children may not even know they are doing it. In fact, there are those who do so without caring, and those who would never imagine that they are harming their children. For the sake of sanity, this article will focus on the parents and adults who are working to better their ways and striving toward a healthy relationship with their children.
The following are several ways in which a parent may be unknowingly placing blame on their child. After reading them, it is easy to realize just how common these moments are, but one thing that children are is forgiving, so fear not; there is time to change.
These three phrases are spoken all too often, at home and in public:
“Why would you….?”
“How could you….?”
“I don’t understand why…”
In a frustrated tone, a parent bites her lip and speaks harshly, placing blame. Speaking to a child using words such as, “I don’t understand why you would do this!” set a parent apart from the child instead of bringing them closer together. It’s a moment of anger because the parent truly doesn’t understand, but the truth is that the child probably doesn’t understand either. Most children are acting out in age-appropriate ways, and the others are acting out for attention-seeking reasons they cannot describe. Using intense, almost threatening statements like these cause a child to shut down and withdraw from the parent.
The voice begins to rise, the child begins to cower. A parent believes a lesson has been learned, but all that has occurred is utilizing a fear tactic to end a situation. A child feels guilty for his faults and believes it is his own downfalls that cause problems.
When a parent overpowers a child by standing taller, pointing a finger, and belittling a child while a certain behavior or action takes place, the child will again feel as if it is his fault. He may begin to shut down and hide his true feelings from his parent in fear of being wrong.
Not Allowing a Child to Speak
Silencing a child forces emotions to be swallowed and guilt to surface. It can be worsened when a child is then sent to be alone. A child’s voice should not be weakened; by denying the child a chance to speak, it is telling the child that he is not worthy of explanation. It is showing him that no matter what he thinks, he is wrong.
Being a Silent Parent
Many parents rely on ‘The Look’ to control their children. Without saying a word, a parent can scare their child or show just how disappointed they are in him. No words are even needed for the child to feel guilty and alone.
Remember that children absorb so much, and that guilt can weigh heavy on the mind – and heart – over a lifetime. By speaking with kindness and understanding, a parent can bond with their child instead of push them away. Talking openly and honestly with a child goes a long way.
Instead of struggling with the above harmful tactics, consider the following as options:
- Take a deep breath or walk away until a sense of calm has returned
- Sit or kneel while talking with the child
- Understand that a child will make mistakes
- A downfall is nothing more than a part of a child that will change or remain over time, but should be acknowledged and addressed in a supportive environment.
About the Author
Elizabeth is a researcher, author, and content writer for My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear – one of the best online stores for unique pregnancy gifts. She spends her days as the ringleader of a never-tiring circus; one full of tightrope walkers, nerf gun shooters, mess makers, and danger-seekers. Elizabeth is currently expecting baby #5 and homeschooling the rest of her tribe. She exists on toddler kisses, caffeine, and tears of (panic) happiness. Read Elizabeth’s pregnancy blog to find out the dos and don’ts and other important things about pregnancy.