I will further my series by introducing the next fairly common role adopted by children of alcoholics and/or addicts. This week I am referring to the Scapegoat (also referred to as the Black Sheep and/or the Acting Out Child).
Where the Hero child garners most of the positive attention, the Scapegoat receives their fair share of the negative. Often labeled as bad, they mask their efforts to gain attention with a who-cares attitude.
Part of the reasoning of this child is, “Well if I can’t get praise, I’ll go for trouble.”
Having experienced many an Acting Out Child in my teaching career, I have found that despite their disruptive behavior, I am fond of them. They are the truth-tellers in the family. They are like a billboard that announces there is a significant problem in the family. This child may be the lightning rod for the family’s pain and stress.
Many a parent-teacher conference of this child sounded like this “Oh Nathan, Nathan. We just don’t know what to do with Nathan. He’s so defiant. He never listens.”
Pointing out that the problem may not solely be with Nathan, but a broad family problem requires tact and understanding. Nathan is only part of a system that needs care and stabilizing.
This child may experience problems in school, problems with the law, and problems in relationships. Problems that may show up as an unplanned pregnancy, dropping out of school, having substance abuse problems and/or addiction.
The beliefs of this child may include:
“If I make enough fuss, I will get noticed.”
“I am angry about it whatever it is.”
“Can’t anyone see how badly I am hurting?”
The Acting Out child serves a purpose within the family system. It allows the other members to focus away from the alcohol and puts the focus on him or her. The Scapegoat becomes the problem that others can identify.