It recently came to my attention that all the issues my son has manifested must be “my fault”. I’m trying to come to terms with that.
The reasons given were that I, too, exhibited impulsivity and lack of planning. Let’s start at the beginning.
I have done impulsive things, true; I think most people have, at one point or another, done something that they hadn’t intended – and some have even regretted the consequences. However, once something has occurred, it’s rather pointless to lay blame; one would be much more productive if one merely picked up the pieces and moved on, accepting responsibility of course.
Lack of planning? What a joke! I’m the world’s worst/best planner – and that’s only dependent upon if you consider “planning” to be a fault. I plan a lot of things; doesn’t mean they work out, but I most certainly work off lists simply to be able to stay on top of things.
And of course I’ve made mistakes – one doesn’t live nearly five decades without doing so.
My son can be impulsive, sure, but mostly just doesn’t seem to think that the rules apply to him, whether those rules are implemented at home or at school or even in his past group therapy sessions.
Is his behavior my fault? I don’t know, for sure, and neither does anyone else. Nature versus nurture has been debated for a hundred years, if not more, and there are no conclusive answers. I do know that we have four other children and none of them have these types of issues. And none of them are perfect, by any means, but we haven’t dealt with anything else this serious, or even approaching this level.
I’ve published many articles on this very subject, this theme if you will: how a parent can do everything “right” and still have a kid who turns out “wrong”. Look it up; there are no websites or books that claim any type of parenting will completely screw up a kid. There are plenty of people who could tell you about kids who had every advantage, a stable home life, and still are in prison; others who rose above their squalid beginnings in life and made something of themselves.
But let’s take a look at this a bit more closely. If a parent is at fault for a teen’s behavior, say, for example, because the teen is “modeling” parental choices and behavior, where did the parent “get” those actions from? Why, it must be from his own parents. You can’t blame a kid’s problems on a parent, unless you also blame the grandparents for the choices the parent is making.
So based on this theory, if a parent has four children and one goes to prison, but the others are happy, healthy, gainfully employed, and building lives for themselves and their families, the parents must have done something wrong. That just makes no sense whatsoever.
If a parent has two children, one of whom is happily married with children of his own, but the other child has difficulty forming meaningful relationships, is it the fault of the parent? Now there’s a possibility; after all, that’s 50/50 odds. Perhaps the one child rose above any parental issues. That would fit this theory, right?
But if a kid gets the idea that the rules don’t apply to him, that he knows better, that his parents are somehow controlling or crazy or delusional – what then? Whose fault is that? It just might be his own fault, his own decisions, his own choices. Or it could be the fault of the person who is filling his head with inappropriate commentary, or questions, or believing everything he says and making excuses for him.
You know…if you have an 8 year old who is out of control, that’s probably the parents’ fault. At 15/16, they’re old enough to recognize right from wrong and understand consequences. If they CHOOSE to make bad choices, that is their own fault….even if their parents were really bad….which theory is kinda shot down if there are older AND younger siblings who manage to make much better choices.
I agree; parents need to actually “parent” first, then gradually let go so the kids can make their own choices and decisions. If the basics are there, the parent has done his job; that doesn’t mean parenting ends, just eases up a bit. Under normal circumstances, of course!
Here’s what I know, Robin.
One of my best friends in high school was a guy we’ll call Carl. Carl was straight up, GOOD kid. Smart, never in trouble, respectful, made all the right choices. His parents were another matter entirely. His dad was not interested in working much, and his mom was off the charts crazy. Carl CHOSE a different life.
Another example: I’ve raised 3 stepsons. All three got dealt a very unfair young life by their parents. The youngest, at 9, had some excuse for modelling the bad behavior of his parents. The older two, at 13 and 18, had none. They knew the right way to live, because first their grandmother, and then myself, modelled it for them.
So. After about age 15, these adults-in-training are responsible for their own bad choices. By the age of your son, he is SOLELY responsible, because he can always choose differently than what was (or likely was NOT) modelled for him.
Anything else is just blame-shifting.
Thanks, Cristy, I appreciate your thoughts – and your examples!