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Parents, It's Not Your Fault!

The One Who Can Respond Is the One Responsible

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Updated June 03, 2003

Are you sick of being told that everything that goes wrong with your child is your fault?

They get into a fight and you are told you shouldn't have bought that Nintendo game; they act up in class and you are told you weren't firm enough; they ditch school and you are told you don't eat three meals a week with them? At what point does accountability for behavior become the responsibility of the one who did it?

"Responsibility is a great word," says Shelly Marshall, BS, CSAC, author of "Young, Sober, & Free" published by Hazelden of Center City, MN. "It holds within it the key to answer the question: Who is responsible? Ask yourself, who is able to respond? Who is response-able? The one able to respond to a situation, is the one who has to be responsible."

Parents can't study for the child's test, parents can't hand cuff their kids so they don't swing their fists, and Mom or Dad doesn't pour the beer down the throat of their son or daughter!

ToughLove's co-founder, Phyllis York agrees in her book "Toughlove Solutions," "The issue of responsibility for behavior is critical to behavior change. The therapists who assume that kids' parents are responsible for their teenagers' behavior are dramatically reducing the chances that the kids will change for the better."

Ms. Marshall, a recovering chemical dependent who cleaned up at 21, contends that parents are held way too accountable for influences that are often beyond their control. Parenting becomes a sort of retroactive blame game whereby adolescent tribulations are referred to some expert who probes into the family situation and eventually ends up with a "reason" why Jared or Janell went astray.

Since no person is perfect, obviously no parent can parent perfectly, and with enough probing the "experts" will always find something in the parenting that they can pin the child's behavior on. Parents are accused of being neglectful or smothering, too harsh or too lenient, not being understanding enough or being more of a friend to their child than a parent. In other words, whatever the expert can find becomes the "reason" that the child is having trouble.

"One of the sad things about this, Marshall notes, "is that it either forces the parents into undeserved guilt over what they should have done or it fosters denial so they don't have to face what they supposedly caused." Marshall is an adolescent chemical dependency specialist and finds the parental Blame Game particularly damaging to families and their drug abusing children. It makes it very hard for a young person to work toward recovery.

"Why should they bother to change when the therapist has excused them and blamed their parents?" explained Phyllis York.

"Young, Sober, & Free" is a classic in the recovery field and has sold 250,000 copies in the first edition. It has just been updated with one particularly strong chapter to parents containing the message: you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it.

"Even so, this book is not written for parents," Marshall says, "it is written to be used by the person picking up the drink or drug, the responsible-able person. Parents can't not pickup the drink or drug, only the person addicted can do that." The second edition is being released by Hazelden May 10. For additional information see Marshall's website Teenage Addicts Can Recover

Source: Day-By-Day Press Release

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