Have you ever seen something like this happen? A child does something wrong, like spill a glass of water in a restaurant, or knock something over in a store, the parent gets angry and does something they know they shouldn’t do, like spank the child, or scream out loud, and then say something in the lines of “now look what you’ve made me do!”
I can’t understand why a parent would ever say such a thing. I am assuming that it comes from a place of feeling exposed and embarrassed. We don’t want to be seen as bad, angry, mean, or out of control parents, so we immediately look for someone to blame, and who do we see? We see the child and what they just did, so we shift the blame. The problem is, this one sentence gives quite a few messages to the child that I don’t think any parent would want the child to hear. Below is a list of what we are implying when we tell the child that they made us do something:
You can do whatever you want, and then refuse to accept responsibility
When a parent says “look what you made me do,” they are really saying “I would not have done this thing that I just did if you had not forced me into it.” In essence, the parent is refusing to accept any responsibility for their own action. This refusal to take responsibility is what gets modeled to the child, who in turn learns that they can do whatever they want to do, as long as they can shift the responsibility to someone else.
How many times have you confronted your child about doing something they were not supposed to do, and they responded by telling you that someone else “made me do it?” Children are incredibly smart creatures, and they learn very quickly to shrug off responsibility. If you are behaving in the same way, then there will be no hope of them learning anything different.
If you want to teach your child accountability, then you need to model it yourself. Start accepting responsibility for your own actions, and teach your children to do the same thing.
I am powerless over my own actions
Every time I claim that someone “made me” do something that I did not want to do, I am communicating to the world that I am powerless over my own actions. Can you imagine using that statement as a defense in court? Just picture it: “your honor, I am not a thief, that man made me steal his wallet!” Or “I only got into that accident because my passenger made me drive two hundred miles an hour.”
We keep telling our children not to give in to peer pressure, to use good judgement, and to follow the rules. Then, we tell them that people can “make me” do things I don’t want to do. Which message do you think our children are going to accept? The one we preach at them, or the one we model?
If you want your kids to be powerful and to make their own decisions and not let others run their lives, then model that yourself. Don’t tell them that your own power is in other people’s hands.
You control my actions
Yikes! Did you just tell your child that they made you do something? Do your children really have that kind of power over your actions? If your kids do have that much control over you, then I recommend talking to a good family therapist. I’m not judging you by any means. Children can be sneaky little creatures who take control over your life while you are distracted. There’s no need to despair. If your children are controlling you, get some professional help so you can learn to re-establish a healthier hierarchy in your home.
If you are like most parents and your children really don’t have control over your actions, then stop telling them they do. Every time you give them the false message that they can “make you” do things, you are confusing the hell out of them! Remember that children’s brains continue to develop well into their twenties. While their brains are still developing, they can take whatever you say at face value. If you give your children the message that they can control you, then I guarantee you that they will try to control you more often. You are going to find yourself in an eternal power struggle with them.
Help your children understand that they can’t make you do anything that you don’t want to do. That way, they will learn that the same is true about them, and they won’t be easily coerced into doing things by “friends” who are bad influences in their lives.
When you do something wrong, blame someone else for it
I already addressed this in the refusal to accept responsibility, but I think it’s worth a mention again here. In this day and age, we live in what I like to call “a culture of blame.” Any time anything goes wrong, instead of looking at the situation and thinking about solutions, we immediately look for someone or something to blame. This culture of blame has penetrated into every single aspect of our lives, be it personal, professional, national, political, or global. We are getting angrier and angrier as a species, and meanwhile, we are destroying the very earth that we live on.
Stop this culture of blame in your own home. If you do something wrong, instead of blaming your kids for it, address your behavior, as well as theirs, and discuss both sets of behaviors openly and without blame. If you do something you regret, apologize at the first chance you get. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are not perfect.
The world would be a much better place if we all accepted accountability for what we do, rather than look for someone else to blame.
When we communicate something in the lines of “look what you made me do” to our children, we are shrugging off accountability, teaching our kids that we are powerless and that others can control our actions, and we are both modeling and perpetuating a culture of blame.
Take responsibility for your actions, and own what you do. That way, you claim your own power, and model the same thing to your children. Thanks for reading this blog, and happy parenting!