The Blame Game


The other day my daughter and I met some friends at the park. It was a gorgeous day where the slide wasn’t too hot and it was breezy enough to keep everyone happy. As another mom and I were casually chatting away I couldn’t help but turn my ear towards a child wailing.

When a child is crying, I always glance at the situation to make sure everyone is okay, strangers or not, then go about my business (since everyone is usually okay). However, this child caught my attention as he was screaming at something. He was screaming at the swing. It became clear that he had fallen off the swing. His caregiver was trying to comfort him as he continued to yell, “Bad swing! You hurt me! Bad swing!” The caregiver validated what he said and then she started telling the swing it was bad, too. Were they really blaming that swing… together? 

Understanding Emotional Coping Mechanisms

We know many children and families have various coping skills for their emotions. I don’t know this little boy’s background; maybe this was his designed coping technique rather than something way more drastic. But, the situation did make me think about blame. Blame and adults, blame and children, blame in general.

Why was this child blaming an inanimate object? Does he see this at home? On TV? At school? How are we, as parents, perpetuating blame in our children? How often do we blame someone or something else on a daily basis?

The driver in front of me was going too slow and I missed the green light. Blame.

That person took the last decent looking apple at the grocery store, so it’s his fault that we don’t have apples today. Blame.

That book fell off the shelf and smashed my toe. Bad book. Blame.

All of these instances could have been situations when a child was around to hear an adult placing blame. Ah yes, those little sponges soak up everything – our good and our bad behaviors. 

Teaching about Blame

And, why was that caregiver validating the blame? I was so intrigued I continued to watch. After a few more hugs and “you’re okays” he was off to the next climber. That’s it. After thinking about the action – blame – I then got to thinking about other ways to teach our children about blame.

Yes, sometimes it is really someone or something else’s fault that something happened. That’s a whole other conflict resolution conversation. But sometimes, maybe most of the time, it’s not.

It comes down to two things: taking responsibility and just the facts of life. Sometimes it’s truly our own actions that create a cause and effect.

That little boy most likely slipped off of the swing. I probably bumped into the shelf that caused the book to fall on my toe. His own actions. My own actions. And, sometimes it’s just that the stoplight changed or the apples are simply gone. Just facts. 

Starting with Awareness

I would like to become more conscious with my daily self talk to make sure my daughter isn’t hearing me blame people or things unnecessarily. I want to be more aware of those future conversations (she can’t talk yet) with her to provide learning opportunities for her to learn how to decipher between her own mistakes or just a fact of life. I want to teach here how to handle a situation when there is actually a problem with someone that does need some conflict resolution.

It’s a struggle to try to be the best parent as an imperfect person. But it’s worth the conscious effort to provide these learning opportunities for our young youth.

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