The Blame Train

An incident occurred last week which I have found it difficult to talk about.

It took a day of crying behind closed doors to at least semi-process what had happened and the lessons to be learnt.

I have tried to talk quite openly about what life is like living with a SEND child with VCB (Violent and Challenging Behaviour). See here for a link to the work of Yvonne Newbold who is a specialist in this field.

To refer to your child as being violent is a real taboo subject and as a parent I already feel fearful of the gossip and misconceptions this may bring.

Firstly, my daughter does not choose to attack – it is her response system and something that I hope we will work on fine tuning as she matures.

Understanding what triggers an outburst is key to survival so that as a family we can find ways to avoid any unnecessary battles.

Sometimes, despite all of our best strategies, those dreaded things called emotions throw a curveball in the mix.

And that is what happened last week.

So the girls were painting rocks – it was something they had enjoyed at a stay and play group the week before and had asked to do again at home.

It was all going so swimmingly, or so I thought, and in a flash of a second the mood had suddenly changed.

An altercation happened and my seven year old daughter picked a stone up and threw it at the house.

The glass in my kitchen window smashed to smitherines and she fled in shock.

She cried and she screamed out “I didn’t know it was going to do that.”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated over and over.

I was so angry, frustrated and to breaking point that I shunned her away from me. “I’m not ready to talk to you right now,” was all I could muster the strength to say.

I knew what I was saying was the wrong way to deal with it, I knew what needed to happen, but my inner pride and stubbornness was getting in the way and I was trapped in the blame game.

I returned to that age old method of parenting where we think “I must teach you a lesson” and although I was not expressing it verbally, my body language spoke louder than the words I was using.

She needed a cuddle to calm down, she was actually beside herself screaming the police would come to take her away and that burglars could now get into our house.

She was certainly in an anxiety overload.

I feel ashamed even writing this – I try to preach how to handle a situation and then occasionally I just can’t contain my own emotions and begin to feel sorry for myself in what becomes an ego-induced meltdown from the parent.

When I get into this mind frame I neglect to focus on how she is feeling too and the distress she really is in.

Eventually, I calm down enough to be able to pull her close to me and give her that warm bodily contact that she so desperately requires to move on.

I told her things would be ok.

I told her I still loved her.

She blamed herself enough, there was no need for the adult around her to add to that shame.

The next day the blame train carried on (which is usual for these turn of events) as I mulled over the situation in my brain – what had occurred and what I could have done differently.

It has a traveling down the tracks kind of effect – the blame train just keeps on rolling.

I can’t help but blame myself when an incident happens and more importantly if I get it wrong.

The shame, the anger and the frustration all circulate through my brain making a stupendous racket and it feels like an emotional rollercoaster.

When this happens I go into a mental crash and find it difficult to pick up the pieces of the carnage.

And although it’s probably true of most parents too, I really do know deep down that this self- blame is not a good model for my child to witness.

She certainly has a sixth ‘super-sense’ of knowing when somebody feels something before they have a chance to verbalise their emotions.

And she is usually drawn to the source of the turmoil – particularly if she senses anger or frustration then she will be like a dog to a bone constantly trying to push those buttons to see what reaction will come and with no awareness of fear.

Looking back at the event and what led to the glass being smashed – she definitely had sensed I was frustrated (probably being cooped up for days was taking it’s toll).

Then she dangled a carrot and enticed me to a battle which as the parent I should have declined.

After the explosion, a few hours later, we talked about the incident and how we both could have done things better.

It’s just so difficult to parent at the extreme when your engine continuously runs out of steam.

I think the problem when trying to use different strategies, and an alternative parenting route, is that society expects us to always find a scapegoat. We must have something or someone to blame every time something goes wrong. So we always revert back to methods of rewards and punishments – something that is counterintuitive to an individual who doesn’t learn from this style.

But what if we altered our focal lens and accepted that things just happen?

Accidents happen.

Wrong choices, again they just happen.

And most of all, mistakes, they also do in fact happen.

If we can just look at them as a single event and then focus on the learning that can take place afterwards, maybe, just maybe, we may find ourselves becoming a kinder group of people.

Let’s see if we can move away from The Blame Train and try to parent without feeling the need to reinforce shame.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, then do take a look at a great resource from Yvonne’s SEND VCB site on shame.


  1. sensationallearning

    Thank you for writing so honestly about this. I too have those moments when you KNOW how you should (and shouldn’t) respond but still act all ’wrong’ because emotions are too strong and I just don’t have enough energy left to be the controlled and calm person I would have liked to be, in that moment… And then feel like crap afterwards.
    But I try to think that I’m just a humsn, just like my child, and sometimes things get too much for me (as for him). Obviously we should be better at managing these things as adults, compared to what can be expected from a child, but we must surely allow ourselves to be imperfect sometimes, too? It’s all such a balancing act… Hugs x

  2. Debra Holmes

    My son is PDA..very high functioning autism..fought Camhs I writing a book about everything..3 years ago I knew nothing about ASD, PDA pretty much advise parents who I recognise their children may be PDA profile …which is left undiagnosed unless private..just as my own boy is..professor’s at SCAND maudsley diagnosed him..

    1. PDA Parenting

      Thank you for sharing and I’m so sorry that these journeys we have are so difficult. I’d love to read anything you write x

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