Don’t Play the Blame Game

This article was written by the former chair of our Youth Advisory Board, Sarah Hinstorff, with contributions by fellow member Ranen Miao.

Fix Problems by Inviting Others to Become Part of the Solution

Disagreements are common in any relationship. It’s no secret that sometimes parents may do things that get on your nerves or that your actions sometimes may frustrate your parents. But don’t get trapped in the blame game. It hurts your relationship and doesn’t fix the issue. Instead of pointing fingers, try to focus on working together and discussing possible solutions.

We all reflexively go on the defensive in response to blame or accusations. Be aware of this natural defense mechanism when interacting with others, including your parents. Communicate your feelings in a calm, rational way and invite your parents to become part of the solution, rather than suggesting they are a cause of the problem. Try to put yourself in their shoes. If you blame them, they’ll just get angry or defensive, and the problem just gets bigger. When nobody has to feel angry, guilty, or defensive, you can come up with a solution you can all agree on.

Don’t Bottle Up Your Feelings

While it might seem easier to keep negative feelings to yourself, this can backfire and may only make the conflict worse. Take initiative and start the conversation so you can problem solve together.

The longer you wait, the more anxious you may get and the more you have time to build up the problem in your mind. Instead, focus your energy on seeking a solution right then and there. Try to spend your time thinking about possible solutions, not dwelling on your feelings of anger or frustration about the problem itself.

The thing I’ve learned is that staying quiet means staying angry, and your problems staying unsolved. The best way to solve them is just by inviting your parents to become a part of the solution.

Knowing When and How to Ask for Help

Part of gaining more independence is taking responsibility for your actions. This includes learning how to solve problems on your own, recognizing when you need to ask for help, and admitting when you’ve made mistakes.

For example, if you feel like your parents are trying to control your free time, suggest that you have a conversation about time management. Acknowledge that you might have room for improvement. Propose ideas for how to devote more attention to organizing your schedule. Ask them for their thoughts and opinions. Express your feelings and ask if they would be willing to take a step back to allow you to prove how you can manage time on your own. Work together to come to an agreement. This is an example of a situation in which you and your parents both played your part in the original disagreement and worked together to find a solution.

Parents can be important partners as you make decisions and solve problems. When you are setting goals and creating a plan, invite your parents to weigh in. They can become a key part of finding a solution that you can own and they can support. When you approach problems from a place of cooperation, rather than blame, you open the door for effective, two-way conversations.

Show Maturity to Gain Independence

As cliché as “working together” or “cooperation” might sound, showing your parents you have the maturity to recognize when you’ve made a mistake or when you need their help goes a long way. Your parents may see your desire to improve situations. They will trust you to act independently when they see you thinking through problems logically. They may take your ideas more seriously.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with your parents isn’t easy. Arguments happen. Problems arise. Take control of any confrontational situation by proposing to work together to come up with a solution that benefits you both. Even if it turns out not be the perfect answer, working together with your parents ensures you are all invested in making sure you find the best solution in the long-run.

Thoughts From Members of the Youth Advisory Board

Ranen, 17

“For a few months, I shut out my parents. They kept talking with me about it, and I realized that I only got madder every time it was brought up. Then, one day, we sat down and we talked. My mom told me that she was hurting because I seemed like I was becoming more distant. I said I was hurting because I loved what I did and didn’t want to quit just for grades. We talked for hours about our differences and our thoughts, and eventually came to a compromise: I would take less rigorous classes, and drop just one or two clubs so I could keep up with schoolwork. We solved a problem that anger and resentment didn’t do anything to help. The thing I’ve learned is that staying quiet means staying angry, and your problems staying unsolved. The best way to solve them is just by inviting your parents to become a part of the solution.”

About Center for Parent and Teen Communication

CPTC is fortunate to receive editorial contributions from a range of multi-disciplinary experts, journalists, youth, and more.

Read more articles by this author

Get our weekly newsletter for practical tips to strengthen family connections.