When Your Child Betrays You: What You Can Do to Discourage Betrayal

When your child betrays you, it can be a tremendous shock. It’s nearly impossible to comprehend that someone you love so dearly could cause such heartache. What can we do as parents to prevent situations like this from happening in our families? Fortunately, there are a number of things that we can do, and we’ll discuss a few of them here. We’ll begin with understanding what betrayal means.

To Betray: What Does it Mean and Who is Really to Blame?

Betrayal: To be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling;  disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to; reveal or disclose in violation of confidence; betray a secret; deceive, misguide, or corrupt. Dictionary.com

Are children capable of betrayal? A close look at the definition of the term “betrayal” shows the possibility is there.

Calling it betrayal without expounding more on its meaning may appear extreme or far-fetched. However, consider a situation where a child lies to their parent about getting in trouble at school. The parent, believing the child is innocent, goes to the teacher or principal and defends him. All the while, the child watches his parent defend him knowing full well that he is guilty of the wrongdoing and says nothing. This is an example of how a child betrays a parent.

In some situations where a child betrays a parent, it seems that children are excused for this behavior. Perhaps this is because of the attitude of our modern society. It appears to be more and more intolerant and merciless toward parents during family difficulties. The assumption is that the parent is the adult and should have everything under control. The parent’s feelings of betrayal by children are often quickly dismissed. That popular attitude sometimes makes it hard for a betrayed parent to express the hurt feelings their children caused.

As a mother or father, it is very important to come up with a relationship damage control system that is healthy and fair to both parents and children. We need to learn some tactics that could help us deal with betrayal should we experience it. It is always best to be prepared for different scenarios so that we can act on a predetermined plan instead of freezing in the face of unexpected challenges.

How Do Children Sometimes Betray Their Parents?

Criticism of Parenting Skills

It is usually with grown children that parents face devastating betrayal scenarios. For example, a parent might discover that their beloved daughter talked behind their back about a personal matter, criticized their parenting skills, personal habits, or their whole life philosophy.

Taking Sides in Family Disputes

Another example is when a son could pick someone else’s side in a dispute when his parent thought it was obvious he was on their team. The son could be siding with their parent’s spouse while in the middle of a quarrel, separation, or divorce. Or, it could be the son sided with another family member or friend where the parent may be going through a rough patch in the relationship. It is normal that the parent would feel betrayed if the son sided with someone else in a dispute, especially if the parent gave their side of the story which they believed demonstrated who the real monster was: not them.

Divulging Confidential Information

Children may even tell secrets about their parents at an age when they should understand what it would mean to violate that confidence. Obviously, when they are younger, children sometimes say things they shouldn’t about their parents and cause them great humiliation.

False Accusations

Other examples include children who exaggerate their parents’ disciplining methods to the point of telling other people about it. Some even go so far as to tell these things to authorities, such as Child Protection Services, portraying them as abusive parents. 

That’s not to say that a child should not have a voice in cases of legitimate child abuse where they can be protected from abusive parents. They should definitely be heard in such cases. However, on the flip side of that extreme are the toxic children who use those platforms to lie about their parents. It would definitely hurt to be a victim of such unjust betrayal. (Source: “False accusations of child maltreatment: A contested issue”)

Stealing from Parents

At any age, a child could develop the habit of stealing from their parents and probably lie about it. Imagine how disheartening it would be to find out when your child betrays you in this way, especially when you have defended them for a long time and perhaps even accused others of the theft.

Parent-Child Relationship Changes

One divorced blogger wrote a touching story about how her daughter transferred all the affection she thought was hers to her father’s new wife. She detailed how her daughter had sometimes shut her out when she tried to find mutually interesting activities to do with her but was now doing similar activities with the other woman. There were many other factors behind her child acting this way but her feelings of betrayal were understandable.

How to Discourage Betrayal Tendencies

Teach Children Personal Values from an Early Age

The examples of situations where children can deceive their patents and break their hearts are several. However, what matters most is how to cope when your child betrays you. How well we prepare to face betrayal ahead of time determines how well we react to the situation if it occurs. From an early age, we need to teach our children personal values to live by and explain why they are important to learn.

An effective parent explains to his or her children why he or she insists on honesty, transparency, kindness, and whatever other values they hold in high esteem. Simply forcing these values on our children is likely to cause them to reject them and possibly lie about observing them. To avoid this, we should make it our goal to give them a deep understanding of the rules we give them to follow. Following this line of thought can go a long way towards eliminating potential betrayal from them altogether.

Do the Best We Can Do for Our Children

Sadly, even if we take all the precautions we can to raise our children well, we may still encounter unpleasant situations. They might misbehave as a result of peer pressure or their own mischief. In light of this, set yourself free from the onset by leaving room for such disappointment. Just promise yourself to do all that you can to raise exceptional children. But be aware that other factors beyond your control may influence them along the way.

Encourage Open Communication

Cultivate a culture of freely talking with your children without easily getting angry. When they know they can express themselves to you and you listen, they will likely reciprocate. They will no doubt listen when you speak. A calm approach is more likely to get the results you desire. Reconciliation with your child and improved behavior from them is the goal. Try to remain calm even when you are greatly disappointed or angered by their actions.

Final Thoughts

When faced with a betrayal that you didn’t see coming, take consolation in knowing that you are not alone. Parents all around the globe face all sorts of problems with children every day. If you’re facing difficulties now or want to prepare ahead of time, it sometimes helps to talk to someone. Perhaps talking with another parent who has experienced similar situations can offer some helpful tips. Talk to children as well, perhaps your children’s friends. Doing this helps you acquire a balanced perspective on why they do the things they do. It is always helpful to get expert knowledge too. There are many helpful resources available such as books or videos on child psychology or psychology, in general. Gaining this expert knowledge enables you to understand yourself as well. And finally, you learn better ways to carry out this mammoth task called parenting.

Kathy Adams, Author

Kathy Adams

Hi, I'm Kathy. Thanks for visiting Your Guide to Parenting. As a parent myself, I understand the challenges that we all face when trying to help our children along the road to maturity. I'm here to help make the journey a little easier for parents and...

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