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Recently, I suggested that one of the things blocking us from having a better relationship with our Orchids is the false notion that we can control another person’s behavior. The narrative in our heads goes something like this: 

If I could just get my kid to stop … then they would be so much happier / have more friends / do better in school / be more successful. 

It sounds so noble. Except it’s a lie. 

The real reason that we want them to stop doing the bad/ annoying/ off-putting/ weird thing is so that WE will feel better. 


We think that if he would just stop screaming so loud, we could relax.

We think that if she would stop hitting her sibling, we could relax.

We think that if they wouldn’t lash out, we could relax.

Spoiler Alert: We can’t. 

Another person’s behavior is under their control only. 


In fact, literally the only thing that a person CAN control is their own behavior. This is equally true for adults as for children.

Bummer right?

I know.

Here’s another problem: much of the parenting literature out there is predicated on controlling behavior, rather than understanding the subtle role parents have in SHAPING and INFLUENCING behavior. 

But there’s a huge difference between control and influence, and the neuroscience research is bearing that out again and again. 

When people are smaller and less powerful than we are, it can feel good or just plain necessary to leverage our power and status over them, and then think that we “made” someone behave in a certain way. 


What actually happened was that we limited the options temporarily, and they chose the lesser of two evils in the moment. 

But that “squeeze” has consequences down the road. Here are some of them:

When we try to control kids’ behavior, we teach them to be better liars by hiding from us the behaviors we don’t want to see (and that they get bad reactions to).

When we try to control kids’ behavior, they give up completely and go all in on those behaviors because “if I can’t be good at Being Good, I’ll just get really good at Being Bad”. 

When we try to control kids’ behavior, they try harder than ever to control ours (in the form of constant negotiation, arguing, dictating what the family will and won’t do).

When we try to control kids’ behavior, we teach them that there are parts of themselves that are shameful and unacceptable to us (and that they should hide them from us).

When we try to control kids’ behavior, we teach them that they need to control themselves (often in unhealthy ways like food restrictions, self-harm, obsessive thoughts/actions).

It’s not what any parent intends! Quite the opposite, right?!

Even if you think you’re just trying to “manage” (rather than control) behaviors… you’ve got a “tomato / tomahto” situation going.

So what to do if we can’t control our kids’ behavior? 

I could give you a bunch of action steps (and in our Raising Orchid Kids classes we do just that), but the first thing that needs to happen? 

Find a way to stay calm yourself.

Only when you are calm will you be able to recognize and handle situations in which you have no control. 

Only when you are calm will you have access to the best parts of your Thinking Brain.

Only when you are calm will you be able to stay in the observer mode and help your child coregulate through difficult moments (remember coregulation? You can read that post HERE).

When you get yourself regulated (calm), you are at your most powerful and creative. When you’re calm, you can see the difference between your child’s Behavior and their Essence. Which means that you can (calmly) lay down boundaries (preferably in advance)  from a place of unconditional love for your struggling child.

When you’re calm, you’re more likely to remember that they are not giving you a hard time; they’re having a hard time.

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