Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Stop Getting Blamed All the Time?
“I always got blamed for things. If the house was unlocked or the stove was left on or anything was out of place or undone, it was Ramon’s fault!”—Ramon.
WHEN you are a teenager, it can sometimes seem that you are blamed for just about anything and everything that goes wrong. In a previous article, we acknowledged that parents sometimes are too quick to blame their children.* The reasons for this can range from normal parental concern to deep emotional distress. Whatever the reason, being held responsible for things that are not your fault can be painful and humiliating.
Of course, as an imperfect human, you will make mistakes from time to time. (Romans 3:23) Additionally, because you are young, you are relatively inexperienced. (Proverbs 1:4) You are bound to make occasional errors in judgment. So when you err, it is only right and fair that you be held accountable.—Ecclesiastes 11:9.
How should you react, then, when you are blamed for something that you have actually done? Some youths try to act as if they were the victims of some gross injustice. They rant and rave that their parents are always blaming them for everything. The result? Frustrated parents use sterner measures to get their point across. The Bible gives this advice: “Wisdom and discipline are what mere fools have despised. Listen, my son, to the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Proverbs 1:7, 8) When you own up to your errors and make needed changes, you can learn from your mistakes.—Hebrews 12:11.
“Confidential Talk” With Parents
It is entirely another matter, though, when you are blamed for things that are not your fault or when blame is unrelenting. Understandably, you may feel angry and resentful. You might even be tempted to misbehave, figuring that you’re going to get blamed anyway. (Ecclesiastes 7:7) However, spiteful actions hurt everyone. (Compare Job 36:18.) Proverbs 15:22 points to a better way of dealing with matters, saying: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk.” Yes, one way to change the way you are treated by your parents is to let them know how you feel.
First, look for what the Bible calls the “right time.” (Proverbs 15:23) Writer Clayton Barbeau suggests: “Pick a time and place when heads are cool and you’re all feeling pretty good.” Further, the Bible warns: “A word causing pain makes anger to come up.” (Proverbs 15:1) So try to be kind and respectful in your approach, not belligerent. Avoid losing your temper. (Proverbs 29:11) Instead of attacking your parents (‘You are always blaming me for everything!’), try to explain how their constant blaming makes you feel. (‘I feel bad about myself when I get blamed for things that aren’t my fault.’)—Compare Genesis 30:1, 2.
The same can be said for those times when your folks are angry because of some misunderstanding. The parents of young Jesus once became upset when his whereabouts were unknown. But Jesus did not whine or complain. Calmly, he clarified the situation. (Luke 2:49) Why not try dealing with your own parents in an adult manner when you are in trouble? Realize that they are upset because they care for you! Listen respectfully. (Proverbs 4:1) Wait until things have settled down before venturing your side of the story.
‘Proving What Your Own Work Is’
Why, though, are some parents prone to jump to wrong conclusions about their children in the first place? To be frank, sometimes young ones give their parents reason to be suspicious. Says Proverbs 20:11: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” What reputation have you established with your folks? Have your “practices” shown you to be “upright” and serious or careless and irresponsible? If the latter is the case, don’t be surprised if they often jump to wrong conclusions about you. “I had to be honest with myself,” admitted Ramon, the young man previously mentioned, about his parents’ criticism. “Sometimes there was a grain of truth in their suspicions.”
If such is true in your case, there may be little you can do but try to live down your past. By establishing a pattern of trustworthy and responsible behavior, you may gradually convince your parents that you have made changes and can be trusted.
Ramon’s experience illustrates this point. His friends and family good-naturedly nicknamed him the absentminded professor because of his tendency to forget things. Have your parents given you a negative label such as “immature” or “irresponsible”? As writer Kathleen McCoy notes, parents may feel such labels serve “to pinpoint what is wrong so that the teenager can see it and change.” In reality, though, such labels often cause deep resentment. Even so, Ramon came to realize that the nickname made a valid point. “My mind was always fixed on one thing, so I was losing things like keys or my homework and forgetting chores,” he admits.
So Ramon began making changes. “I started to learn about responsibilities and priorities,” he recalls. “I made a schedule and began to take personal Bible study more seriously. I learned that Jehovah places importance on little things as well as on big things.” (Luke 16:10) By applying Bible principles, Ramon eventually shed his reputation for forgetfulness. Why not try to do the same? And if a label or nickname really bothers you, discuss it with your parents. Maybe they’ll see things your way.
When It Looks Like Favoritism
Sometimes favoritism seems to be behind the blame. Recalls Ramon: “My older brothers or sisters would come home late and get away with it. I’d come home and get in trouble for it.” A Guyanese man named Albert recalls having similar feelings when he was growing up. It seemed to him that his mother disciplined him more harshly than she did his brother.
However, things are not always the way they seem. Parents often extend greater freedom to older children, not because of favoritism, but simply because they feel that they will act responsibly. Or there may be special circumstances involved. Albert admits that his brother was spared physical disciplining because he was “small and sickly.” Is it favoritism for parents to recognize the special needs or limitations a particular child might have?
Of course, parents do sometimes have their favorites. (Compare Genesis 37:3.) Says Albert of his sickly brother: “Mom had a special affection for him.” Fortunately, Christian love is expansive. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13) So even if your parents have “special affection” for one of your siblings, it doesn’t mean that there is no love left for you. The real issue is, Are they treating you unfairly, blaming you because of blind affection for a sibling? If that appears to be the case, by all means let them know how you feel. In a calm, reasonable manner, give them specific examples of how you feel they have shown favoritism. Perhaps they will listen.
Admittedly, not all situations are easy to change. For some parents, shaming and blaming are ingrained habits. This may be especially so among parents who have emotional problems or are battling addiction. Under such circumstances, little good may come from attempts to talk matters out. If this seems to be true in your case, realize that your parents’ problems are beyond your control and can likely be solved only with outside help. The best you may be able to do is give them appropriate honor and respect and try to avoid unnecessary conflict. (Ephesians 6:1, 2) Proverbs 22:3 says: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself.”*
At the same time, get some outside support. Talk with a mature adult, perhaps a Christian elder. Loving attention from such a person could do much to counteract the feeling that things are always your fault. At the same time, “draw close to God.” (James 4:8) While others may unfairly blame you, “[God] will not for all time keep finding fault, neither will he to time indefinite keep resentful. . . . For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:9, 14) Knowing that you are precious in God’s eyes can help you put up with unfair blame.
See the article “Young People Ask . . . Why Is It Always My Fault?” appearing in our July 22, 1997, issue.
See the article “Young People Ask . . . How Can I Cope With Verbal Abuse?” in our June 8, 1989, issue. See also the series “From Words That Hurt to Words That Heal,” in the October 22, 1996, Awake!
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Admitting our errors helps us learn from our mistakes