Taking responsibility for our kid's actions

Parents usually feel some level of responsibility for their children’s behaviors or actions. Sometimes they’ll step in to take unnecessary ownership on behalf of their child. What (if any) circumstances need to happen that would allow children to experience natural consequences on their own?

November 21, 2023
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All right, we're gonna have to somehow figure out how we're gonna slip ourselves into this topic because you sent me a text and about what you want to talk about and then I think I either misread it or misinterpreted it and so there's gonna be a little bit of like finding common ground here right at the beginning as we as we figure it out but the gist of it is you want to talk about Uh, as parents, how we kind of take responsibility for our kids behaviors. And actually what I kind of read was, uh, taking responsibility for our kids emotions. You said behaviors, but I actually read emotions. So we're a little misaligned on,


on our topic here, but I think both are super interesting. So let's talk about both. Let's attempt to talk about both of them and we'll like tease them

All right. Okay. Well, I think, how about if I frame it, what I was thinking, and then you talk about what you were thinking. Cause you, you transferred it a little bit and made it something different, which is super interesting. Okay. I wrote as our children age, when do we stop taking emotional responsibility for our children's behaviors and start transferring that ownership to them?

Oh, I see where I went wrong. I only read half of what you say

I need to stop being so verbose. I know we're onto something

Okay, but you're you're saying okay our kids do something Like maybe not favorable

Behave badly.

they they throw an absolute embarrassing temper tantrum in the target

Right, right.

you are taking and and and you're taking emotion and and that causes an emotional response with you Right,

yeah, yes,

like you're very embarrassed Like, you're embarrassed at their behavior, right?

And you're asking, When do I actually stop becoming embarrassed when my kids do something embarrassing?

Well, what I'm saying is like, let's make it a little older because I, a little older child, cause I think it's in better context. Um, lots of us have kids in sports, high school sports. Okay. Um, Teams. You see some kid on the team absolutely lose it when they don't get the goal, they don't win the game, and they have really bad sportsmanship, okay?

Or just embarrassing sportsmanship, it doesn't even have to be wildly out of, out of whack. A parent in the stand is going to have a huge emotional reaction to that, okay? And this is very real. Like you see this on the news all the time now about parents acting badly at high school games. Um,

And you're, actually, and your contention there is that they're actually acting badly on behalf of their kid. They're, like, responding to something their kid did.

yes, they're responding in a way that they feel responsible for this child's behavior.

Mm. Mm

And then what ensues is parents may be acting poorly, making excuses for being deeply embarrassed, trying to pretend like it didn't happen. Like all these things occur because a child that is old enough to know better hasn't exercised, you know,

Oh yeah, so like, uh, I see what you're saying. You'll see it all the time, like, they'll start justifying their kid's action. Well, well, he was up late, well he's got, you

Yeah. Yeah.

know, right. Like, he's an ass on the football field, but he's getting straight A's at, and he's such a good student, or, you know,

so much better. He's so much better than he was last year. He's really changing. Um, now. This sounds super judgy where we are right now, so I want to also call this out. This is not about judging how the parent responds to their emotions, okay?

What I'm talking about is that feeling, that snap feeling that happens when a parent witnesses or hears something that their child does. It is this instant Oh my gosh, this is me. This isn't my child. This is me. This is a reflection of me. And at what point that, so that's what I was asking. And, and I don't know when this changes because, you know, when, when kids are little, it is our responsibility to guide them and show them good behaviors and model good behaviors.

It's always our responsibility. However, some kids just don't. They're just not having it, right? And so then the parent feels so responsible, and the parents could be great. The family could be wonderful family, you know, wonderful families that have done everything that they can, and the, this, the kid still doesn't act in a way that's congruous with what the family expects.

At what point does the parent say, this is on this child, it's not on


This is a very sticky topic. This is, so this is what I

where you're at. Okay.

Oh, you see, I just noticed you back away from your

Well, I get it because because we have we we have this notion like like well behaved kids, you know, polite well behaved kids. are brought up by, you know, thoughtful, caring, intelligent parents, right? There is, there is this subtext in our culture that, that, um, like good kids come from, like, I don't know,

Squeaky clean parents.

You know, we're good parents, we're good kids, and so, but, um, that is just not, in my experience, like, even close to reality,

no, no, it's not. And, and like, so like, think about it like this too. Like as the child gets older. What some people do, because they just don't have the energy, they don't have the focus, they don't, they don't know how, they check out of that emotional responsibility maybe sooner than the child is best

hmm, mm

Because they don't, they don't know what else to do. And they just kind of give

well, okay, so, like,

so there's a lot here to unpack.

uh, if you're the king and queen of the monarchy that you rule over, imagine, you

Wait, do I have a cape?

Yes, you can have a cape.

a high collar? I want a high collar. Okay,

big throne. It's

Fur lined. Yes. That's amazing. Perfect. I'm with you. I got the visual.

So, um, you want the kid, you know, the kids who are the heir to the throne have to behave in the correct regal proper way as to like continue. Your, like, picturesque monarchy lineage. Yeah, right, like, this is like a fairytale level,

Yeah. Yeah. B.

Yeah, and it is, it is BS. But, like, that, that is the narrative, I think, that,


know, if you look at, um, If you look at sort of the fairytale world that tries to get constructed, um, That's, that's what it is. Um,

Right. It is. Yeah.

but like,



Oh, my gosh. There's absolutely no way that that could happen even in America in the fifties, you know, versus today's America, which is just ridiculous. Just full of different cultures and different families and


so many

when do we, when do we stop taking responsibility for our emotional responsibility? Or maybe like, would it be fair to say, when do we stop reacting to our kids behaviors?

Maybe. Yeah. I mean, I, I, yeah, I mean, I, I think so. I think I, I just, and the, and, and by the way, the question may be never. The question answer or the answer may be never the answer may be, well, it comes in waves, you know, like, I don't, I don't really know. I just think that we as adults with children take a lot of responsibility for our children's actions, behaviors and emotions.

And, um, and sometimes that's not of benefit. You know, I think, uh, I think we all have moral obligation and responsibility to raise children that are respectful and Um, you know, um, are not narcissistic people, you know what I mean? I think there's some, and treat people with the golden rule, like some common, common sense types of things, right?

Well, at least I'm con, I'm considering them common sense. Um, but the challenge is what I, what I see is how do we make that, how do we get back to a more normalized approach rather than when we're not overdoing always? Or forgetting about it so early that we've lost, you know, they don't have anything tethering them.

What if we're never responsible for our kids actions? What if you can, what if, like, you can sort of create that line or break that, that idea?


wonder if it's an idea. Like,


I wonder if it

instead of a

it's, it's like, um, in my parenting experience, You know, like I can't, I don't control what the kids do, like I can't control it.

I can, I can, I can try to influence what they do,


but I can't control what they do. They do all sorts of stuff on their own.

mm hmm,

like, and, and they do like not, sometimes they do bad stuff that. You know, other people, other families would look at me like, Oh yeah, all the Parkers, they, you know, that's, don't, don't go near the Parker house.

Those kids are bad over there. They're not bad, but like, I can't, you know, I can't control it. Like they go out in the world and they do whatever they are going to do. Like good bad or indifferent, right? And I have no control of it at all. I have some and to me It's more like Like I like this phrase that I heard once like I'm not responsible for my kids I'm responsible to my kids So the idea like I I can't be responsible for what they do like ever


be responsible To them to say hey you did a thing That was not cool.

Let's talk about that. I can hold them accountable. I can have, like, straightforward conversations with them when I observe things that, like, maybe are not going to serve them in the future or are harming other people or violating core values or things like that, but I can never be responsible for what they actually do.

Right. Yeah, I think some people would not be in alignment with that. I think some people would feel like they did have way more control and they were supposed to exercise deep control. You know, like the whole adage, as long as you're living under my roof, like how many times have we heard that over the years, either through parents or, you know, just examples of families, right?

Um, and. But what's interesting about that is it does create a huge gap because kids that feel that their parents are trying to overly control them in an unhealthy way and I'm putting parentheses around unhealthy way because everybody's got different examples of what that might be But if a kid feels overly controlled by a parent a kid is going to either Comply because they're scared to death Or, they're going to do the opposite to prove that they

Or they'll rebel.

I think most of the time it's going to be, yeah, they're going to rebel, yep, like everything.

It's, it's flight or, it's, it's flight or, uh,

fight or flight,

or freeze. Like, you know, the fear one, a lot of times for the kids, it's like freeze or fight. That's the

yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think it's so interesting because if you take this control idea. And you just, you just spin that out a little bit into a broader perspective of what's happening today.

It's um, it's interesting to me to think about it like that because there's a lot of societal unrest right now. And there's a lot of anger, there's a lot of people trying to set themselves apart to feel special or to feel different. Um, and um, how does that frame our children? And their behavior, and when they're younger, more youthful and less experienced, how does that frame their actions?



Uh, yeah, we're

I mean, this is comp, it's a complicated, it's a complicated

so I, I want to, you know, a lot of times, you know, this is clearly like a, like a family. Or like, how are we raising children? But if you like, let me put a work frame around it to see how, how it is. Okay. Actually, my wife hates when I do this, so we're going to do it anyway.


That's okay.

if you, do you have employees, right? You've managed people. Um, are you, like, are, how much responsibility do you take for your employees actions,

Mm. That's a great, yeah, this is a great pivot. Mm hmm.

I don't take much responsibility for my employees actions, like, like I try to train them, I try to help them understand what we're doing, making sure we're going in the right direction, um,

Yeah, mm

and other than that, you know, like we can start getting into like what micromanagement looks like, um, what distrust looks like, like, you start, you start really trying to like control employees, And it looks like micromanagement, distrust, um, like overbearing, like,

autocratic, autocratic

turns into a whole pile of things that are.

Not good in my opinion, others might think those are a good way to run organizations, but, but I don't, I think the common, you know, or the majority would say, Hey, no one likes to be micromanaged and, and under a tyrant of a boss, right? Um,


well, if we took that and you apply that same thing to parenting, you can't, if you use those words around parenting, you'd be like, Oh yeah, that sounds like a bad parent. Except, that's a thing we try to do all the time. Now, I'm not saying, like, let's not hold our kids accountable. Like, as a boss, I also hold my employees accountable. And, but the ultimate thing there is, you, you can fire an employee. Or, or the employee can quit.

You can't

Right, you can't fire a kid, and the kid can't quit.

So, what hmm.

no, no. Yeah. Well, and the thing is like, even in the situation that you're giving with work, there is a line in the sand even there too, because, okay. So, so let's just say you get a nutso employee that behaves really badly. In the office or on company time or something like that in which you are forced to take a stand because they are not In alignment and it's usually something like culturally, right?

They're not in alignment culturally or they does something that you end up having to Fix or you end up having to manage from a public relations perspective, right? Okay, same thing at home. It's like some of the times what if your kids and I don't think it's always intentional on the kids perspectives, but what if a kid acts way outside of a cultural family norm, a core value norm.

And then the parent feels like, oh, public relations have got to kick in here

Mm hmm. Mm.

this. Like we have to decide, is this culturally acceptable in the family? And if not, what are the consequences? But, okay, so those are all the activities and actions. But think about the emotions behind that. At what point do we just say, you know, um, I'm, I'm really sorry that, that you've made this decision and I, I bet that feels really, really bad, you know, like I'm hoping you're learning from these things, but that the parent isn't taking those, that responsibility into themselves emotionally.

So you said, like, I think you said the key thing around this topic is it's a public relations problem


because, okay, so


a story is, um, one of our kids, like when they're in middle school, um, had a buddy, um, and they kind of got in to quite a bit of mischief Together.

Mm hmm. Mm

Like, to the point where like, people around the neighborhood knew that you know, my kid and this other kid are running around the neighborhood like, causing a little chaos, right?


And everyone, you know, kind of knows. And then, you know, we'd get this like, Oh, we saw, you know, we saw them like, on the back path doing this or that. I'm like, okay, right? So now we've got like a little bit of neighborhood public relations problem. Well,


His buddy, we're really, we were really good friends with the parents, right?

We kind of co parented these kids like from birth and we'd hang out a lot, but this incident This thing that the kids did when they were in, in, in middle school, um, our approach to it from, from, again, from a public relations perspective was to kind of say, Hey, yeah, the kids were doing all this stuff around the neighborhood.

Yep. That was our kid. He did it like, this is how we handled it. This is a lessons we took from it. That, you know, this is what we did. Our friends. Tried to completely bury that like never talked about it never wanted to admit that

oh, oh, interesting,

very Different

oh. Awkward.

and it actually caused us to not

Awkward interaction.

and it was like ooh, that is a clear Difference in what we value

Family culture.

So and you know, and that's okay. I don't You know that that story is not really about that that relationship But it is like

No, it's not about the situationship,

is I think it

yeah, it's a perfect

what you were talking about is taking responsibility for kids behaviors And I think a lot of times Whether is like an internal component to that. I think the The main driver of

Mm hmm.

responsibility for us is one is an external one is one like how does this look right?

How does this yeah,

people? How am I going to

it's all of that. You got to look at it on that side. We're on that side of everything

Yeah. Oh, that's so interesting. And I think if you're really honest with yourself, each parent, each parent, not even as a


each parent has, um, things that they are trying to push out as being, you know, socially

Oh for

better than.

Oh for sure like

So then you have the whole, then you have that whole looking for validation by comparison.

Um, and all of the emotions that ensue when you feel that that's been, um, you know, Tainted or challenged.

Yeah, like again my my story was like kind of with some friends, but also my wife and I felt it To like, you know how she kind of wants to to look amongst the other moms in the neighborhood, right and how

Right. Yeah. Yeah. That's what I mean. Like each parent's going to have really different.

it can

Yeah. And each parent is going to be different.

cause stress on your marriage to


that some of

think it's interesting too to think about. Yeah, like, and even like if you think about it from a context of the, of a child not doing something bad, you just talk about it from the context of each child you have and what kind of personality they have. And as a parent, are you proud of and do you align with that personality or is the child in an opposite personality from you?

And do you find yourself judging that because they're not being a certain way? So I mean, I think it comes, it comes out in that way too. Cool.

I I like observing this I've got uh, I've got a cousin who's got a couple of kids. One of them, uh, is a, uh, I got five kids, uh, there's a set of twins, right? So

Bless him, by the way. Bless them. Bless

the, the oldest, um, Uh, and the, the, uh, these two, this, this couple, they, they are, they are brilliant and they are patient and they're like the most perfect, best parents ever.

they're listening.

not, I don't think he



Oh, okay. Okay.

but they're twins. Absolute nightmare. Like, like, like when they were like. Tiny they would like the two of them together would like construct these like machines to get out of their crib And they would like one day I had to go over to his house because the kids had shoved Like socks down their HVAC system like so far that we couldn't reach him way to like take apart like the entire like ductwork In his basement.


they were just into all

Were they boys? Were they boys?

All sorts of

yeah, shocker.

And, you know, from the outside, you kind of think like, Oh, look at that's, that's cute. Like, look up, look how mischievous these twins are. Right. And for them, I think their experience is probably way different. Like, Oh, my God, we get a call from school every day.

By three o'clock they're both laying flat on their back looking up at the sky saying, Please God let me get through today. Ha

But to me, it's like their parenting style is probably unchanged across all five of their kids.

Amazing. That's amazing.

like they all behave different. So there's, to me, the lesson is like, you can't take responsibility for what your kids are doing. Um, because they're, they're all going to be so different anyway.

Yeah. Yeah, and I, I do think too, like what you're saying is, is not like a hand, a totally hands off, uncaring approach. It's the reverse. It's like being very hands on and very caring, but also recognizing that they are humans. They are their own human beings. They are from the time they are born.

And our, our job is to guide and support As much as possible and then every once in a while, you know, like my kids have always said, I don't know how you did it, but we were more afraid of you than the


That's what my kids told us once.


And I, I think I've said that on the pod before, but it's so hilarious.

Um, but it was the same thing though. We never, we, we just always had very strong expectations about how it was to be, uh, you know, a good human being, you know, um, And then they would go off and do their own thing and you'd just shake your head and cover your eyes sometimes

the other parenting thing, and, and this, this is certainly an approach. I'm not like kind of advocating that everyone do this as my

Yeah, yeah, yeah,

is that I think people learn best by, by making the mistakes themselves. Right. I can tell you, Melissa, to not do something, but until you actually feel what it's like to do that, it doesn't, you know, it doesn't hit as hard.

It doesn't, that lesson is not as imprinted. So, um,

Yeah. I agree.

when I see the kids make behavioral mistakes and do kind of things that are dumb or, or whatever, um, I, I kind of want them to lean into it. Right. And because that's where their lessons come from. Right. So, one of my parenting philosophies is how can I get the kids as many life lessons as possible?

Not the easy way, not the like I'm telling

of your roof,

but in the like I'm going to really experience it kind of way. Yeah, well they're under my roof. Well, it doesn't completely ruin them,

Yeah. Exactly. Where you can still keep them safely

but, but so my context or my frame around stuff when the kids do things that, you know, maybe in public don't look that good or I don't particularly like is okay, let them go do that. And then we'll have a conversation later about why maybe that wasn't the greatest choice.

Yeah. Yeah. It's a very complicated thing and I really think that as we're dealing with, you know, all of these pressures of raising kids, I think, um, I think parents get really caught up in their own emotions and, um, and then they actually lose the context of what's happening. So I don't know. I think it's a great, it's a great thing to just, uh, ask yourself and, and, you know, reflect on.

kind of used this analogy before. It's like your emotional capacity is like a glass of water, right? And the, the more kind of emotional stuff you've got going on is like adding water to that glass. And so many of us, that glass is like the water is at the tippy top of it. And if we can lower the water level a

little drop.

It'd be really

Mm hmm. Yep.

on our kids responsibility ability for our kids stuff. It's just more water in that glass. And if we can remove that amount of water, we can have more margin in our life.

Discussed in this episode

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Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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