How Do I Respond When My Adult Child Blames Me for His or Her Issues?

by Kevin Leman

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Leman’s podcast on


Blaming others has been around since time began. Let’s go back to Adam and Eve. Adam said in Genesis 3:12:“It was you, God, that gave me that woman. It’s her fault.” Passing the buck has literally been around forever and it’s a scapegoat. It’s a psychological defense mechanism. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. Life’s been unfair to me.”


I would bet you a nickel and a few pesos that a daughter complaining about her mother is always asking her mother for help in some way, shape or form, either financially or otherwise. Of course, if you don’t like yourself, you need to find a way of deferring that to someone else.


You have to lay blame on it, like it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that she, now these are just guesses in the dark because perhaps she chose not to go to school onto post high school, that she was the one that decided to take off extra time from work and ended up getting fired.


What you see is a trail of non-responsible behavior from day one, and so rather than face myself and look myself in the mirror and say, “You know what? This is on me,” as the old song says, you strike out, you only hurt the ones you what? Love.


The next time she throws a barb at you, just say simply, “Honey, I’m sorry you feel that badly about yourself.”


My prayer for you someday is that you’ll look honestly at yourself and take responsibility for the things you say and do and won’t have the need to blame others, including me, for your inaction and your failure. Failure isn’t fatal in life, honey, but realize that you failed and then not doing anything to try to get yourself into a positive track is quite frankly just a shame because quite frankly, I believe you could do better.”


“But if you want to continue to play this dog and pony show where I am the source of your problems, you go right ahead. You just have to understand that I’m not buying it.” That’s the conversation that has to take place.


That’s kind of scary for that mom to say that. Moms are often afraid that that daughter’s going to pull away.


Perhaps they’re too close. Mom is probably way, way, way too involved in her adult daughter’s life. Okay? So I’m guessing that daughter is asking mom, “Hey Mom, what do you think about this? What do you think about that?” And Mom tried to help, giving her two cents worth.


Daughter does partly what Mom suggests. It doesn’t work and then now whose fault is it? It’s Mom’s fault. So what I’m saying is the quicker they separate, the better.


The next time she’d get asked a question from her daughter, say, “Honey, I don’t have the foggiest idea what to tell you. That’s completely up to you. I’m sure you’ll make the right decision,” and then psychologically turn your back and walk away. I mean, this doesn’t work without Mom doing some changing of her own. She has to see, just like fighting is an act of cooperation, this nonsense that’s going on between her and her grown daughter continues to go because she plays a role in that.


So all of a sudden Daughter says something like this: “Mom, you are stupid. You don’t know a thing.”


Then when she asked for help, especially financial, which I bet you a nickel she’s doing, I would just say, “Honey, I’m unable to help you right now for a lot of different reasons. Let it go.”


Playing the victim and using a parent as a scapegoat is a psychological defense is commonplace now in our culture. How as parents do we not let our kids gain this stance or this opinion?


Start when your children are young. The general principle is don’t do for kids what they can do for themselves. Now, if you take that too, literally, I mean, if a kid says, “Mommy, would you get me a glass of milk,” am I saying don’t get the kid a glass of milk? No, I’m not saying that at all.


What I’m saying is the kids will work you and you have to have a built in antennae that says, wait a minute, this is a little too much. They can do this work. I sat down with my granddaughter once and my wife assigned me, “Hey you, help Adeline with her homework.”


So I sat down and I looked at the homework and I said, “Okay, what are we doing here Adeline?”

“We’re doing these six questions,” Adeline said.


It took me a minute to figure out what was going on. Adeline wanted me to figure out her six problems for her, and I said, “Honey, I don’t know.”

“This is your homework. This isn’t Grandpa’s homework. This is something you have to do.”


“Yeah, but I don’t understand it,” Adeline replied.


“Well, I mean, I don’t know how I can help you understand it. You can read it once you read it out loud, see how it goes.”


I just keep the ball on her side of the court. Kids will work you. You just have to understand that. It’s human nature for a lot of kids, particularly later born children or overly-dependent firstborns to use the ones that they’re supposed to be loving. People aren’t for using. They’re for loving.


So you draw those lines early. You have expectations. Your yes is yes. Your no is no. You’re in authority without being an authoritarian. You’re not being a pushover and it’s that balanced life that you present before your children that gives them a solid foundation to grow from. That’s the important thing.


What would it take as a mom to be able to have the confidence that this is actually going to bless that child, not irreparably destroy your relationship? Some Moms feel the desire to be needed so much that they ignore the importance of setting boundaries and helping their offspring to assume responsibility for their behaviors and choices.


If Moms learn to do this from the start, there’s so much hope in that thinking, okay, when I have adolescents, when I have young adult children, that they’re not going to be blaming me. They’re not going to come whining to me for an answer. They’re not going to be dependent on me. They’re going to be responsible, able to make their own choices.




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