Best Way To Avoid Scapegoating in Your Family

Some children get blamed even when they haven’t done anything. Psychologists use the term “scapegoat-tog” when one particular child always gets blamed for mishaps, whether he is actually responsible for what has happened or not.

This type of scapegoating occurs when parents deal with stress by inadvertently redirecting their anxieties onto their child. Scapegoating happens to some extent in every family; few parents are able to resist the temptation to shout at their child from time to time when they themselves are upset. Such incidents, if isolated, will not cause long-term psychological problems for your child, though he won’t like it, and you may feel thoroughly guilty yourself after your temper has cooled.

Avoid Scapegoating Best Way To Avoid Scapegoating in Your Family

When parents or teachers regularly scapegoat a child, more serious emotional effects could result. The child may become locked into a vicious circle of ever-lowering self-esteem. Scape­goating makes a child lose his self-respect, which adversely affects his relationships with others, which in turn decreases his self-respect…. And so it goes in a never-ending cycle.

To determine whether scapegoating is happening in your family, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my child willing to take the blame for things that go wrong at home, even when he is almost certainly not responsible? A child who is scape-goated becomes conditioned to admit to any mishap, and automatically stands first in line to receive punishment even though he is totally innocent.
  • Do I nag at my child constantly over trivial matters? Of course, your child may be going through a genuinely difficult phase, and your nonstop complaints may be justified. However, it could be that your child has become a convenient punching bag on which to release your own frustrations.
  • Does my child accept every reprimand without challenge, even when he initially appears surprised at the accusations? Most children become upset when they think they are unfairly blamed. A child accustomed to being scape-goated soon stops defending himself because he knows it’s not worth­while.

Do you feel under a lot of stress, and do you also feel that your child never gives you any time to be on your own? Emotional pressure diminishes our patience to deal with the minor hassles of everyday life. In this situation, your child’s normal demands can seem intolerable, and you may reprimand nim when he’s really not misbehaving at all.

The following suggestions may help you reduce—or avoid altogether—scapegoating in your family:

  • Talk openly with your partner about your worries. Honest com­munication is the best way to alleviate the sorts of person­al stress that can lead to your children being scape-goated.
  • Be prepared to accept that you are not perfect, that you can make mistakes just like anyone else. Parents who have trouble accepting their fallibility will always try to put the blame on someone else—probably their child.
  • Explain to your child why he’s being punished. Instead of mere­ly blaming your child for his actions, give him reasons for your action. Your child is less likely to feel scape-goated if he is given an explanation for each reprimand. You may even discover, when you hear your own explanation, that it isn’t a very valid reason for punishing him.

Avoid Scapegoating 1 Best Way To Avoid Scapegoating in Your Family

  • Be willing to say “I’m sorry” to your child if you have wrongly accused him of something he didn’t do. You are not weak to apologize. Your child deserves honesty from you, and your willingness to show regret sets a good example.

A child may make himself the family scapegoat—even though he isn’t consciously aware he’s doing so—as a means of getting attention. If you think this describes your child, then it is you who has to change your behavior, not him. Instead of attending to your child only when he misbehaves, give him attention when he behaves. Tell him how pleased you are that he’s not breaking any rules, and find a few minutes each day when you and your child can spend time together. This will reduce your child’s need to attract blame in order to get your attention. Try to ignore some of your child’s disruptive misbe­havior. The more your child realizes that making himself a scapegoat doesn’t get extra attention, the less likely he is to behave this way.

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