Q: My Son Blames Everyone But Himself …

by Hal | April 16th, 2014

The message started, “[I] desperately need advice …”

… My almost six year old always blames me or someone else for his behavior. We are very big on teaching our children accountability. It can be small and big things. Yesterday, I told him he had to put on a coat to go outside. He preceded to says “Okay, it’s your fault I am going to be hot.” I said, “Well, put on a coat or don’t go outside, your choice.” So the tears and disrespect and bad attitude started. And it was all my fault. And this lasted the rest of the day. Today it was because he had to clean up his toys. Is this normal behavior? 

My Son Blames Everyone

Unfortunately, this is quite normal. I think we inherit this tendency from our ancestors:

   [And the LORD God said,] “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”    Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”    And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”    The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

(Genesis 3:11-13, NKJV)

Nobody likes to take the blame, even if we deserve it. I suspect every parent has played referee in discussions like, “Did you hit your brother?” “Well, he hit me first!” It’s normal, disappointing, sinful-human sort of behavior. But it sounds to me like your son is trying to use guilt feelings to manipulate you.

Guilt is the state of deserving punishment for a misdeed, and sometimes our hearts and emotions fool us into undeserved guilt feelings. The apostle John wrote that when we love “in deed and and in truth,” we can “assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” (1 John 3:18-20)

Even a child, though, can stir up this false accusation and self-blame in others, if he senses a possibility of getting his way in spite of the adult’s intentions. So in the example you gave, was it sinful for you to require him to wear a coat outside? Did you say it with malicious intent? Of course not. If it’s “coat weather” outside, then you’re being a responsible parent to give him that direction, and even if he did get hot running around, you are still simply being prudent and trying to prevent him from getting too cold. No guilt to be assumed here!

I think in that situation, I’d say something like, “Well, maybe so, but it’s cold out, and I’m responsible to take care of you whether you like it or not. Ephesians 6:1 says, ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ YOUR responsibility is to obey me and your daddy, so your only choice is to wear a coat like I told you, or don’t go out.” And if he proceeds to make a fuss about that, then you move on to deal with his disobedient attitude.

Since he’s a boy, too, I’d frequently explain to him that it is very important that a man take responsibility for his actions, that he knows how to follow instructions of his authorities (supervisors, spiritual leaders, drill sergeants, etc), and that he is honest and manly enough to admit when he’s wrong and take the consequences he may have earned. Avoiding all this is the action of a little boy–which of course he is–and doesn’t he want to be a grown-up man one day?

The problem we face as parents is that we do have a responsibility to guide and train our children, and we can’t let them emotionally manipulate us from doing what we know needs to be done. We try to listen to our children’s complaints and appeals because sometimes we make mistakes or jump to conclusions — and when we do, it’s important to demonstrate how a mature Christian handles apologizing. But most of the time, we do know better than our six-year-olds, and we don’t have to get their agreement to set reasonable expectations and hold them accountable. God gave us this job, even if our kids didn’t vote for us, and our first responsibility is to Him! (All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version)

Hal Young Sugarloaf Web 150x150Yours in the battle, 


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3 Responses to “Q: My Son Blames Everyone But Himself …”

  1. Accountability is very important. In a child, it’s instinctive and reactive to pass the blame; to deny, manipulate and complain. But if a grown man did these things he would be “entitled.” He would not be responsible, honest, trustworthy or kind. In our home, we call this behavior “the victim mentality.” And we call our kids on it, on the spot. If allowed to develop and flourish, this habit of deniability creates a man who keeps a separate checking account because he’s ready to leave his wife if it doesn’t work out, or isn’t affected by the casualty of divorce because he expects that it will happen – and is not invested in the lives of his wife or children since the relationship is temporary. Life isn’t fair. The goal is not mediocrity, it is excellence. Accountability nurtures manhood. And womanhood.

  2. I have seen this in every single one of my children at some point but yes, I admit that it is somehow more urgent in my heart when I hear one of my boys doing it. Accountability and responsibility are vital character traits for all who follow Jesus; it’s a big part of what gives us the ear of those who have yet to believe. When we find this tendency rearing its head, we go back, continually, to the same methods you mention here. So far …. it’s worked like a charm in changing hearts AND behavior. :-)

  3. It sounds to me like your son could have the beginnings of a mild defiant behavior. There is a behavior disorder called “oppositional defiance”, which your son could be displaying. Your son is very young to be articulating that type of guilt or resentment. What is warranting this type of behavior? Has he been neglected or severally chastised? You are looking out for his general welfare. As first suggested, you can keep him accountable with love and the word. As parents, we know this is a difficult balance. Also, the child might be re-directed in his conversation and tone towards you. For example, “Kevin, when we are giving you directions, we need your cooperation, not comments”. “Keep those comments in your storage closet”. The “storage closet” comment might throw him off , but give him a way out. As a parent and a worker in a career with adolescents, I understand the challenges you are facing. But we can still re-direct them, while having fun. May I also suggest some reading on “tough love”, and defiant behaviors. This may help open the door to a better understanding of what you are dealing with at home.

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