Surviving the Teen ‘It’s-unfair-it’s-not-my-Fault’ Game

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Our tribe, that we love to absolute bits! Thank you Jesus for these blessings!

It’s not my fault! I didn’t do it! He did this, he did that, he made me do it! You don’t understand… We have been hearing a bit of this lately, and have been left wondering what in the name of all things good, is going on! So after reading a bit about navigating the teen years on dealing with phrases such as those above, I realise I am not prepared AT ALL for the game ahead. Enter disclaimer here – I love my children insanely! I am so blessed to have them in my life, and wouldn’t have it any other way. The learning has been both ways, the forgiveness both ways also. This is all about relationship, and helping our children navigate this world as their brain develops, and as they become magnificent citizens! So we have been doing some reading…very quick reading to gain some insight, and ideas to bring to the game…yesterday!

So when a child refuses to take responsibility for his or her actions, and blames their siblings, their hormones, the fact that the moon is out, or the cat is lying wrong on the bed, I have learned from Nigel Latta…to be the rock. Be the immovable rock. Set the boundaries, keep bringing the conversation back to the problem at hand and be the big rock for them to bounce off. And that time-out for both parent and teen is priceless because talking sensibly won’t happen for either party when the moment is heated. Talking later when things have simmered down, and the fog has lifted is vital! Love first, and talk later. Provide security and converse when the storm has passed.

The following are some things we tried – in different order, and with mixed amount of success (yes we have had a little practice lately, and touch wood things have settled down again…maybe it is a certain time of the month when things chill out for a while!)

Turn things around so that they think about how they would feel if the thing they did was done to them. How would they feel? Would they think it was fair? This hopefully tries to imbed a sense of empathy – which is one of the first things to get lost in an angry moment. And which is something that is still developing in a child, so in actual fact these episodes are the perfect training ground to practice empathy for others.

In the conversation, when the lovely teen tries to swerve the conversation to how they were wronged and why the world is against them, continue to bring the conversation back to the topic at hand. What boundary they crossed, which value they went agains, what wrong was committed. Other things can be sorted out another time, but for the moment, bring it back to the ‘wrong-de-jour’.

Another thing to pose to your child is to ask them if they believe it was ok what they did, and how they treated the other person. We tend to say …’we don’t do that in our family’…or…’we don’t hold to those values in this family, we hold to the value of kindness and honesty [insert value here]. Sometimes even quoting ‘do unto others what you would have them do to you’ (Luke 6:31) will bring it back home the reality of their actions and how it made the other person feel. The idea here is to guide the moral compass of your teen. They can explain why they thing their action was right or wrong, and then it is up to us to re-direct them to God’s way of love and kindness. Remember in the teenage years, there is a lot of re-wiring happening in their brain, and their moral compass is one thing that is still developing. No pressure there. We have a huge impact in steering our teen’s moral compass.

I struggled over the whole concept of leading our children to ‘say sorry’, and then to say ‘that’s ok’. It’s actually not ok, the other person is hurt and so to the receiving end of the apology, we try to get our kids to say, ‘thankyou for your apology’, or if they have processed things enough, ‘I forgive you’. Saying sorry is easy to get out of a sticky conversation with mum or dad, but to really mean it is another thing. So we tried a different tact and asked our teen to figure out ways to make amends to their sibling / parent as a way of saying sorry in a tangible way. Gosh this all takes so much time and energy, but we could see it was totally worth it in the long run. We don’t need any resentment hanging over our heads in this household!

Nigel Latta talks about the ‘Ladder of Doom’. Especially if a child is not doing what you are asking, a marker gets moved down a ladder. The ladder could be bedtime, device time…whatever currency your child is into at the present time. the brilliant thing, is it ends up being the the child’s choice that makes the marker move down. It puts ownership back onto the child. And the even more brilliant thing is there is a way for the child to make the marker move back up the ladder. We haven’t got anything concrete (like a picture or something on the wall), but challenging device time sure makes our kids re-think their actions. Here is an article from ‘Tots to Teens’ about the theory behind the Ladder of Doom. I also like their idea of the Ladder of Gladness, where children can be spotted and rewarded for doing the right thing.

I also read a brilliant line – ‘you’re not a victim here – you can make choices. For someone who always sees themselves as the victim, and not taking responsibility for their actions, sometimes all they need is for someone to point out that they can actually make choices. We are not defined by our actions, or the actions of others. We are strong, with the help of Jesus we can make better choices and not be a victim of our circumstance. Powerful stuff!

The other thing I have learned, is that (especially boys, bless them) often us as mothers tend to use toooooooo many words. We need to add fullstops in our conversations. I have found myself blabbing on to my boys about something, then stopping myself in mid-stride to re-process what I want them to do, then starting again. The sentence the follows might be something like…’Shower, PJ’s, bed’. Or [insert name here] – shoes, to your room. (not forgetting to add a please and thankyou!). Sometimes if kids are in ‘the zone’ of not hearing you, and just hearing blah blah blah, then as few words as possible is needed. Even just saying ‘what you did was wrong’. Or ‘half hour in your room, then we will talk’. But the important thing is the ‘talk’ does need to happen, but when both parties are willing to talk and listen.

But before any of this is put into practice, pray! Pray to your Heavenly Father of all Fathers, that He will equip us with boundless wisdom and energy to guide our beautiful children to the kingdom. Pray for protection from evil – there is power in praying for protection, and binding anything that might sneak in to destroy. Be blessed, and may you get a full nights sleep, uninterrupted reading time and snacks to yourself. Jokes aside, parenting can be the most difficult thing at times, however it can be the most rewarding as well. I love my kids beyond belief even though sometimes I have thought about making my own fort in the corner of our property! I definitely do not have it all together, I am not perfect as a parent, but with God in the picture of this family, He will hold it together, He will be our light, guidance, protection and peace through some of these stormy times.

Below are some great resources!

Nigel Latta –

This is a great read –

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