Posts tagged cooperation

How Much Control Should You Have Over Your Child?



In the Big Picture Parenting class today, we had a great conversation about control. The question goes something like this: “How do I make sure my child is doing or not doing Certain Important Things while still respecting their autonomy and independence?


It’s a darn good question, because at the end of the day, the only thing we really have full control over is ourselves.


Our children, when small, are within our control to some extent. But they still cry when THEY choose, pee when THEY choose, sleep when THEY choose, and eat what THEY choose. (Many power struggles develop, in the long term, around sleep, potty training, and food – so if you’re trying too hard to control in these areas, listen up!)


The more time we spend in a power struggle in the short run, the less influence we have over our child in the long run. 


And in the long run, ALL we have is influence. So the sooner we figure out that working WITH our child, respecting our child’s autonomy, while still providing clear limits around the things we can control (ie ourselves, our actions and reactions), is possible, the better.


As a single mom, I had to figure this out early. My daughter would head off to her dad’s house and I had NO control. I no longer got to decide what she ate, or what she was exposed to on TV, among a myriad of other things. After a few years of trying to control HIM (you can guess how that went 🙂 ) I concluded that the key was to build my relationship with her, NOT so that I could control her, but in such a way that she would respect me enough to consider my ideas and opinions, in the short term and in the long term.


So, how do we stay out of the power struggle, and stay in the game?


First, remember that it’s only a power struggle if YOU make it a power struggle. Your child is just doing what children do, trying to figure out how things work in the world, and doing exactly what she needs to do to learn what she needs to learn to move through her current developmental process.


Second, do what you need to do without feeling guilty. If you must stop the behaviour, stop the behaviour, support your child as she moves through the disappointment, and move on. Don’t get all in a knot about your child’s autonomy when you need to do what you need to do. Self-doubt helps no one.


Third, accept that some things aren’t in your control, and let those things go. When you are not all charged up about something your child is doing, your child won’t be as interested in doing it anyway. I was visiting a wise mama at dinnertime once, and her daughter wouldn’t come to the dinner table. She eventually chose to let it go, saying with a sigh, but obviously, no attachment and no intention to make her child feel guilty, “Well, I’m disappointed.” When you can’t control it, support yourself through the disappointment, and move on.


Fourth, give your child information so that he can make good decisions about the things that he has control over, and then let go of your attachment to which choice your child makes, whether it’s the colour of the sippy cup he chooses or whether to pay attention in class. Over years, your child will practice exercising that decision-making muscle, and will make better and better decisions about bigger and bigger things. (This is a key area of building influence – when you give your child the information she needs to understand her world and feel good about her choices, she will come back to you for more information.)


Fifth, decide what you believe is “basic respect”, and start young with creating clarity. Children raised with age-appropriate autonomy and your focus on building influence will figure out basic respect/social etiquette eventually, but you can decide what behaviour you’re comfortable with at what age in a restaurant, for example. This is up to you – an area you have control over. If you are not comfortable with your child’s behaviour in the restaurant, either don’t take them out to the restaurant, or remove them if things get out of hand.


So, how much control should you have over your child? Enough to keep them and others safe. After that, it’s all about having control over yourself, building connection, and developing respect-based influence. And here’s what’s amazing. When we lovingly focus on what WE have control over – our child’s behaviour will change, too.


Any insights? Questions? Post them below!


And consider joining me for the Discipline Without Guilt class coming up in April/May 2015. I’d love to help you find ways to manage your triggers, build influence, set your child up for success, and build connection with your child at the times when it’s hardest to do. <3 Register HERE.

So…Should I Give My Kids Allowance? (Part 4 of 4/Kids & Money)


If you’ve been following the money conversation so far, you’re probably wondering, “How does allowance fit in to all this?”

Personally, I choose not to use an allowance, but I don’t believe that allowance is necessarily a bad thing, depending on HOW YOU FRAME IT.

What I do is prioritize helping my daughter earn money in lots of different ways, and let her know that I’m available to support her to earn money for whatever purchases are important to her. I remind her in good time before something is coming up that she might need spending money for, and make sure I put aside time to spend helping her figure out how she’d like to earn that money. I also offer her opportunities to earn money. For example, I was hired by a school to interview potential new families to the school, and she came along to greet the families at the door, show them where to hang their coats, and introduce each family to me and to the teacher who would be working with the child. I then paid her a percentage of my earnings for that day.

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether and how to use an allowance:

To teach a child that every family member is responsible for caring for the home and family, I generally recommend avoiding connecting household chores with allowance, especially if you are going to dock money for chores not done. It becomes too easy for the child to make a negative connection…”Oh! Well, I don’t need the $5, so I’ll just take the week off of my chores.” Instead, help the child to understand that household chores are what we ALL do to make family life work.

HOW you talk about the way you share money with your children is extremely important, and leads them to establish beliefs around money and the relative value of other things, products, services, generosity, etc. For example, if you give your child an allowance of $20 every week, with no explanation, they will absorb something different than if you give your child $20 each week and say, “In this family, we all share the fruits of our labours. This week, I earned money at work, and I am sharing it with you. You and I worked together to clear ice off of our sidewalk, you cared for our dog, and dad cooked dinner tonight. We all benefit from all of our work for our family.”

On the other hand, if you give your child an allowance of $20, after asking, “Were you good this week? Did you do your homework? Did you listen to your teacher?” your child will absorb the idea that money is a reward for somebody else’s definition of “good” behaviour. Remember that when a person sees something as a reward, the intrinsic interest in the activity needed to earn the reward DEcreases, and the desire for the reward INcreases. So, if you are using money as a reward for “good” behaviour, your child will become LESS motivated to produce the “good” behaviour independently, and more interested in the money.

This, of course, brings up the question of whether money is a “reward” for work when we are adults. Remember that our beliefs make a big difference here – the meaning we give to the exchange matters a lot. If we see money as a reward for drudgery, bestowed upon us by a judging external “boss” or “The Man”, our relationship with both work and money will be affected. If we see the results of our work as valuable to the world, and the money we earn as equally valuable, we are comfortable with the exchange, and we maintain our intrinsic motivation.

So, as I mentioned in the first part of this series, YOUR beliefs about money matter a lot, and will be passed on to your children, unless you are intentional about sharing something different, AND changing the beliefs you don’t feel serve you. Hint: To figure out if you have any unhelpful underlying beliefs about money or work hidden in your psyche, start journalling with sentence starters, “Work is….” and “Money is…” Repeat the sentence starters over and over, and write stream of consciousness until you’re empty of associations.

The bottom line about allowance is, AFTER you’ve clarified the beliefs you want to share with your children around money, IF you choose to give an allowance, decide HOW you’re going to frame the allowance so that your child is receiving the healthy messages you intended to share. One example of framing the allowance in an intentional way is above, in the quotation beginning with, “In this family we all share the fruits of our labours.”

There are lots of healthy, creative ways to support your children to become responsible with money, but the underlying beliefs are always key. Make sure that the messages you are sending your children are clear, and NOT wrapped up in the muddy waters of rewards, punishments, praise, shame, or fear. This way, your child can start off his or her lifelong relationship with work and money feeling confident and positive.

Please share how you support your children to understand money! We’d also love to hear any questions that you have.


Become the Parent You Want to Be in 2014


It seems like a big and scary goal – The Parent I Want to Be.

At the same time, I can’t really settle for anything less – it matters way too much, and so much love lies in the balance.

So, every year, and multiple times during the year, I re-evaluate. I tweak. I adjust. I take stock of what I’ve learned. I take a deep breath. And I start again, doing my best, with all the information, ability, and heart, that I can draw on, right now, today.

What I love about the New Year is that I am inspired to reset goals, to re-imagine my vision. This year we’re doing something extra special.

I was inspired by the gorgeous family mission statement in the photo.

Each year, my daughter and I have made individual vision posters for the New Year. It has been inspiring and amazing to share that with her, but this year – she’s 8 – I felt it was time to take our joint values and create something really special.

We started with a question, “What do you want our family to be like?” We got out our big whiteboard, and our little whiteboard. We started by brainstorming on our big whiteboard, until neither of us had any more ideas. Then we went through and chose the phrases and ideas that we both felt strongly about, and that included some of the less powerful ideas. We kept these, and erased the others, then began to transfer the ideas to the little whiteboard, to order them by size, to position them, to group them. Lastly, we cleaned off the big whiteboard, and transferred them all back, carefully arranging them as we went.

Then we went out to buy that green painting tape and special acrylic paint markers for writing on walls, and next we’ll paint the most central wall in our home with our Family Vision. I’ll be sure to sub in the photo when it’s complete! In the meanwhile, here’s our whiteboard.


I can’t wait to paint this on the wall!

Creating the vision of the family you want to have, and more importantly, CO-creating that with the rest of your family members, is a key step towards manifesting the reality of your vision. I was amazed at how aligned my daughter and I are in our vision for our family. She designed the final poster, telling me where each idea should fit, and how big to write each word, and most of the time, it was perfect.

As we move into 2014, we will have this solid, beautiful, physical reminder of how we want to be with each other, what our shared values are, and what matters most.

I know that I am a better parent when I am accountable to my children for my behaviour and my choices. I know that I am a better parent when I have reminders of the positive language I want to use when things get tough and I just want to Say Mean Stuff. I know that I am a better parent when I have reminders that we are on track, and a compass to keep me going in the right direction.

There are lots of ways to do this – a framed poster on a single page, a book you write together, a poem, a set of stairs, a painted wall, or something else you choose.

Do you have a vision or mission statement for your family, or for yourself, as a parent? If so, please do share some of the key concepts below! The Big Picture Parenting Class starts by helping you define your vision, clarify the values that matter most to you in your parenting, and express those ideas in ways that inspire you. Come join us! Details for Big Picture Parenting Class of 2014 HERE.

How to Help Your Child Obey With Joy

Dad with Boys

Obedience with Joy!

This phrase is not to suggest that obedience is the greatest good with our children, but we all know that a lot of cooperation is involved in our daily lives in today’s world.

The basic concept is this: ideal discipline comes BEFORE an issue arises. When children’s developmental and daily needs are met, they are much less likely to “misbehave”, because they are too busy with the work of growing themselves, and too fascinated by that work.

Every child has a powerful drive to learn, explore, and grow, to engage with the society they are a part of. A child whose developmental needs are met accepts guidance more easily because that guidance helps them learn – learn how things work, but more importantly, learn how to be in the world.

Montessori talks about “obedience with joy” – one of my favourite Montessori phrases. The child whose deepest needs are met obeys an adult who helps meet those needs, joyfully, most of the time.

So, here’s what to do:

To halve your frustration, and double your patience, remember that learning is messy! One of the main roles of the adult is to offer many, many Gentle Reminders as children follow their developmental processes. 

To meet your child’s developmental needs, fill your home with meaningful activitiesallow your child to choose his activity, and don’t interrupt your child’s work. Concentration brings peace.

To enjoy your children more, reframe discipline issues in a “how to” way, and then give lessons: “Oops, did you forget how to ask nicely? Let me remind you,” or “Oh! You don’t know that glass figurines can break and need gentle handling yet, do you? Let me show you,” or “You are experimenting with doing something you KNOW I don’t like.  Let me give you some information about what you are doing and how I am feeling.”

These three ideas sound simplistic – but they are ongoing, and involve really knowing yourself and your child.

Refer back to your copy of “The 7 Keys to Mastering Discipline Without Guilt” for much more detail and lots of examples on these three points. (Don’t have one yet? Go to to get your gift copy!)

Obedience with joy just not happening at your house? Call me! I’d love to work with you…403-607-1463.


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