As a psychologist and parent coach, I work with many parents who hope to change some aspect of their children’s behavior, from whining and tantrums to aggressive behavior and power struggles. I tell them all the same thing: you are the instrument of change.
As parents, it is tempting to look at our children’s bad behavior and see the solution as “fixing” them. But this approach ignores a key principle of change in relationships: if you want someone to change, start by changing yourself.
Think of a relationship—whether with your children, your spouse, or your co-workers—as a dance. If one person changes their steps in the dance, the other person must change theirs too; this is especially true in our relationship with our children.
For example, if you feel that your kids don’t listen to you, you might begin the process of change by observing the ways in which you are contributing to that dynamic. Many parents unintentionally “teach” their kids to ignore them by repeating themselves again and again, and then either dropping the issue, or yelling. (Here’s how to fix that).
So, the next time you find yourself wishing that your kids would behave differently—whine less, listen more, and so on—ask yourself how you could behave differently in order to facilitate the change you’d like to see in them.