APSGO Parenting Blog

by Sue Kranz

In March of 2003, I discovered a parent group that saved my sanity. The group was based on Choice Theory by William Glasser, and what I learned there changed not only how I parented, but positively impacted all my other relationships.

I joined the group with the hope of learning how to change my kids. Instead, I learned how to change myself – and that changed everything!

The first thing I learned was that the only behaviour I could control was my own. This flew in the face of the common-sense mantra, “You have to get them under control!” It took me longer to appreciate the corollary: the only person who could control my behaviour was me. This meant I could no longer blame my kids for my ineffective behaviour.

The focus then moved from how I could make them do what they didn’t want to do to figuring out what I wanted and what I could do to get it. Being a much more creative approach, it opened the door to endless possibilities.

Take the kitchen, for example. Six kids can generate a whole lot of dishes in one day, and I seemed to be the only one who cared if the kitchen was clean. I was willing to do dishes, but not every dish in the house. So I left out one mug, glass, bowl, plate, and cutlery for each person. Then I cleared space in my linen cupboard and locked up the rest. I could at least control how many dishes I’d have to wash each day.

Next, I learned that the solution is never in the problem. The solution is always in the relationship. Step 1: Stop criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing. This included lecturing and giving advice. Step 2: Replace those with supporting, encouraging, trusting, listening, respecting, accepting, and negotiating differences.

This doesn’t mean you should support your teen in making ineffective decisions. It means that you should be their safe haven, the one they can always turn to, the one who will listen without criticizing or judging them, the one who says, “This is tough, and I know you can handle it.”

Some parents have argued that this is a “permissive” approach. Not so. Controlling our kids (or anyone else) is a myth. But when the relationship is strong and satisfying to both, we have tremendous influence, and that has a much more positive and lasting effect. Whatever behaviour we’re expecting from them, they won’t know what it looks like until they see us do it.

I stopped siding with authorities, family, and friends against my children. Instead, I stood by them as they learned to navigate these systems. I thanked teachers for their efforts on my children’s behalf and advised them that, since education was my children’s responsibility, the school should deal with them directly.

I learned that a boundary is a rule you make for yourself, not for someone else. “I’ll wash whatever’s in the hamper.” “Once I’m in my pyjamas, I’m not going out again.”

I also learned why threats, punishment, and rewards don’t work; how to get out of the middle; how to help my kids make better decisions; why parents don’t have to be on the same page; how to get respect; and why house rules don’t work – and what does.

If you want to email me at sue@sanerparenting.com, I always welcome your comments and questions!

Want to know more about Choice Theory? My PDF booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries are now available for download on my website at www.sanerparenting.com/downloads/.


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