Making a Moral Inventory, 12 Step Program, Support Families, Parents, Caregiving

12 Step Program – Step 4

Parent Caregivers – 12 Step Program
Step 4 Making a Moral Inventory of Ourselves

We are now at Parent Caregivers, 12 Step Program Step 4 making a moral inventory of ourselves. As we continue our Parent Caregivers series: 12 Step Program, we will talk about making a moral inventory of ourselves.
In the first few steps, we discussed the difficulty of caregiving as a parent of a special needs child. We then moved on to step 2 of the 12 step program and discussed a Power greater than ourselves.
Last week we discussed making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to that power.

Parent Caregivers 12 Step Program is adapting the “Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous” to caregiving. The authors of the book suggest using a journal to write down your thoughts, feelings, and observations as you move through the steps.
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How Our Habits Affect Others

Step four asks us to stop and think about our own habits and how they affect others as well as ourselves. The author’s call this a ‘moral inventory’. It might not seem like a big deal, but our habits are who we are when we are not thinking. Habits can help us if they are positive. If we have a habit of going to bed at a decent hour, getting rest will surely help us under the stress of parenting and caregiving.

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” ===== > Tweet This!

Acknowledging What Hurts

Yet, there is a dark side to habits as well. What if we have a deep-seeded habit of making sure we do everything as perfect as we can? On the surface, that might seem like we just want to do a good job. Yet, what happens when we have a special needs child or an aging parent that cannot do things perfectly or as they did before? What happens when we don’t have enough hours in the day to do things ‘perfectly’?

If we do not take the time to examine ourselves and how we might need to change, we can develop some negative habits like denial or avoidance. You might find you have some amazing gifts that are really a strong asset. This doesn’t have to necessarily be bad.

One of my unique habits was my desire to have everything in its proper place. I didn’t say clean, in case my husband is reading this, but in its proper place.
For example, I was the crazy person that had all her CDs in alphabetical order. (Yes, I am aging myself a bit.)
My daughter, on the daily, would pull out every single book on the shelf and throw them around the room. The first 100 times I put them all back the way I thought they went. It was driving me crazy. Now, we have a bookcase with books all over the place.
While this is a small habit, think of how other larger habits might affect you and your family with your new reality

Taking Action

Writing out the inventory is a way to really examine what adjustments might need to be made.
Some writing prompts they suggest are:

  • List your difficult emotions (anger, worry, fear)
  • The cause of these emotions
  • Barriers you have that keep you from doing what you should
  • The benefits or the costs that result from hanging on to old ways
  • List any shortcomings – things to change.

In the 12 Step program the things you want to work on are called shortcomings. Some of them you might not be ready to tackle just yet, but at least you will have a list of things for later.


I wish I could say that I have no shortcomings and I fixed it all. Honestly, that would be hogwash no matter what I wrote. I did find, however, that some of the coping strategies, habits, and behaviors that I had held on to for most of my life were no longer serving me well. Right now, my biggest hurdle is consistency in … well … everything. So, that is one of the things I am working to improve.


Use the inventory exercise for the emotion of anger. Often when we do a lot of caring for others we can get resentful or angry. We might feel guilty that we feel angry. Consider writing out the feelings, the causes of those feelings, your barriers, the benefits of staying angry, the costs of anger, and finally make a list of shortcomings related to your anger.

If you are just a uber happy person – great! Consider other emotions like resentment, guilt, or grief. The intent of the inventory is to have a better understanding of ourselves, at this point in time, as we add new or greater parenting and/or caregiving duties. Some of this might really be hard. Stick with us as we work through it together.

Coming Up…

In Steps Five to Nine you will get some guidance for ways to resolve the shortcomings.
In the meantime, write down some of the things you may need to work on in the future.


What shortcomings might you want to upgrade?
We would love to know your thoughts on the 12 steps thus far.

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Find the previous Steps as they are posted by clicking HERE.

Making a Moral Inventory, 12 Step Program, Support Families, Parents, Caregiving

Source: Loosely Adapted from “Self-Care for Caregivers: A Twelve Step Approach” by Pat Samples, Diane Larsen, Marvin Larsen

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