Dear Broken Parent: It’s Not Your Fault!

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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It's really, really hard to not take your child's behavior personally. In fact, it's downright impossible at times. But I's not your fault. Here's why:

I confess. I used to be really, really mad at my kid. Scratch that: enraged. I was enraged. Every time he acted out, destroyed something in my home, terrorized one of my other kids, hurt my wife, wound up in the principal’s office, did something to the neighbor kid, I saw red. My blood boiled. I would react to him out of anger. I said so many things I regret. I did things I wish I could go back in time and undo.

I carried this for a looooong time. Angry at my kid…angry that our home was under siege…angry that we couldn’t just be a normal freaking family for once…and then the cycle would repeat. Angry, angry, angry!

Somehow, I got through my anger. Not sure how, but one day it subsided like a receding tide. And that’s when the guilt set in.

I felt guilty for being so angry. Guilty for the way he behaved in public. Guilty that I couldn’t stop it. Guilty for the things he said and did in my home, and in public. And then guilty for making him afraid when I lost it. Guilty! “Aren’t parents supposed to raise better-behaved kids?” I constantly ranted. I gave guilt full permission to press down on me and convince me that I was an awful parent and that this all was my fault. I believed that if I wouldn’t have been so angry for so long my kid wouldn’t be such a mess. “It’s my fault he acts out. My fault he’s detached. My fault he can’t get through a school day without an incident. My fault he hoards food. My fault he steals things. My fault….my fault….my fault.”

I gave guilt full permission to press down on me and convince me that I was an awful parent.

This voice played over and over in my mind like a broken record.

And then one day a close friend looked at me and said, “Mike, his behavior is not a reflection of your parenting. It’s the trauma he went through long before he became your son. It’s not your fault. It’s not Kristin’s fault. You’re doing the best you can! Stop beating yourself up about not knowing any better. You’re human. We all make mistakes.” 

My friend was right. As his words sunk deep into my mind, I saw a light I had never seen before. It was a realization. It wasn’t my fault. And it wasn’t my kid’s either.

Nope. He didn’t do this to himself. He didn’t cause his brain to suffer permanent damage. After listening to my friend I sat alone in my office (when I used to have one of those “real” jobs), and allowed the truth, the sorrow, the grief, and the freedom of this to wash over me. For the first time on this journey, I released myself from guilt. And I released my precious child from guilt.

It wasn’t my fault.

It wasn’t his fault.

I’m human….he’s human.

I’ve made a million and a half mistakes. So has he.

This was the fault of trauma.

Broken parent (just like me)….it’s not your fault. Your child’s behavior is a product of trauma. You didn’t do this. I know it’s hard to not take this personally, and not feel guilty for their behavior. I know it’s hard to not believe that you’re a bad parent and her bad choices are because of you. I know. Trust me friend…I know. I want you to virtually look at me and listen. It’s not you. Your child is speaking from a place of fear….a place of darkness….a place that you and I know very little about. It’s not your fault.

Release yourself into the freedom of this truth.

Ever been there? Ever felt the weight of guilt over your child’s choices or behavior? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.