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How to Parent Teenagers by Avoiding the Blame Game

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Don't Get Caught in the Blame Game with Your Teenager!

Is parenting your teenager like playing the blame game? If you'd like a way out, listen to our parenting skills experts, Marney Studaker-Cordner and Kimberly Abraham. Both are professional social workers and they authored the book, The Whipped Parent. First I'll we'll hear typical blaming statements from teens, then some blaming remarks from parents. Finally, we'll combine some mistakes to avoid and solutions to consider.

 How Parents and Adolescents Play 'The Blame Game'

Our authors tell us 'The Blame Game' is like rolling the dice. Your teen picks up the dice and makes a blaming comment. Then you pick up the dice and return a quip. Back and forth each of you keeps pushing each other's buttons. Here's an example from their book:

"I missed school today because you didn't wake me up."

"I did too wake you up. You wouldn't get out of bed."

"Uh-uh. I fell back asleep and you never came back in."

"I did too. I tried to get you up three times today. It's not my fault you missed school."

If this sounds like some of your arguments, don't give up. You have choices:

Three Choices for Parents

1. You can play and lose.

2. You can refuse to pick up the dice by not responding in the first place.

3. You can respond with, "I'm sorry you had a hard time making it to school today. Do you have any ideas on how tomorrow could be different?"

When Parents Hold a Blaming Attitude

Sometimes adults don't recognize how their own blaming attitudes put them in opposition to their teens. Here are some examples:

1. "I'm an alcoholic...But my nerves are so shot that I'm ready to drink again...he needs to know what he's driving me to do."

2. "I can't believe he swore at me. He has no respect for me or anyone else."

3. "That's it. He never swore at me until he started hanging around that one friend of his."

Can you guess why these blaming statements aren't helpful? If you said number one is wrong because your child is not responsible for your emotional state, you're correct. In this case the parent could choose to take responsibility and go to a support group or therapy.

Number two and three are still looking to blame someone. Our authors tell us that holding our adolescent responsible for his behaviors is good. Blaming is not. Why? The Blame Game offers no solutions. No one wins. (From Pages 119-122.)


Blaming Mistakes to Avoid

Your voice, your body language, and your words have the power to teach. Some parents teach the following mistakes. Don't let these errors be yours:

1. Argue with a loud angry voice. The child learns to argue the same way because parents modeled the voice.

2. Stand with stiff body language, pointing finger, and furious face. The child learns to mimic the same stance because the parents illustrated it.

3. Yell, name call, and use blaming words. The child repeats the language because the parents taught it.

Solutions for Blaming to Consider

1. Ignore the blame game. Don't pick up the dice.

2. Form a relaxed body image.

3. Comment kindly and firmly while keeping the responsibility for the bad behavior on your teenager.

4. Model respect and character.

5. Listen well and speak well.

Yes, this takes strength when you're fired up. Take a time out. Cool down. Practice the face, body language, and words that say what needs to be said and no more. When both of you are calm then be the parent, the teacher, and the model.


I like the examples Marney and Kimberly shared. They showed us how badly the Blame Game can go. The analogy to rolling the dice made sense. They showed us that blaming doesn't work. They gave us three choices. When you read their book, you'll find even more helpful information in the, 'The Blame Game' chapter.

Let's APPRECIATE Marney and Kimberly for sharing their expertise from working with difficult teenagers.

Authors Marney and Kim
         Marney Studaker-Cordner, MSW, CSW 

               Kimberly Abraham, MSW, CSW

Pick up your copy of their book, The Whipped Parent: Hope for Parents Raising an Out-of-Control Teen and get the help you need.

The Whipped Parent

Available on


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With warm wishes,

Jean Tracy, MSS

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