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Finger pointing at child

The Blame Buster Exercise

I recently coached a family and found that one area they needed to shift was in pointing out the faults of one another in a blaming way. When blame is a normal part of a families' interactions, parents and children cannot deal with issues directly so results suffer.

When we discussed behavior that they wanted to see less of in the family, one person would always share who was the one that usually did it. I noticed that more time was spent assigning blame to another or deflecting the blame away from themselves than on the solution. When I pointed this out, they said it was usually the kids that did that. You got it, more blame.
   

We did an exercise I call the Blame Buster. It has a few purposes; to reduce the blaming by allowing the blamer to realize they blamed with a passive cue from someone else, and to then replace the behavior with an appropriate message that helps the family.

First, everyone points to someone they usually blame for something. As they point (and giggle) ask them to notice how many fingers are pointed to blame someone. Then have them look at how many fingers are pointed back at the blamer. This represents the responsibility we have for our own behavior. Once they realize see that blaming cover up taking responsibility for behavior, ask them to point the finger back to themselves. This is the moment they show that see they have blamed and are now going to focus on themselves.

Secondly, set up a game going forward that catches and corrects blaming in a non-confronting way. If someone blames you, you just stay quiet, look at their eyes and wait until they notice. Once they notice they point to themselves and say, "Sorry I blamed and thanks for helping me notice."

Imagine setting up an Agreement to pick up after yourself but getting derailed when a child points out that your car is a mess. This type of interaction is not productive or appropriate, and faced with this blame, a parent can only do their best. Parents who members of the Parent Coaching Hotline have improved their best, and can respond respectfully yet teach a powerful lesson.

 
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