What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective


You appreciate it when one of your children steps in to help. But when that “help” means trying to act like the boss…

…When they boss other children around

…When they reprimand other children as if they in charge

It is exasperating for you and causes even more fighting between the children. But you’re not sure how to get that child to stop acting like they’re the parent. 


What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective


Children often feel like they are told what to do all the time. People with more power tell them they can’t do this, they can’t have that…

At the same time, they want to have power themselves. So they’ll find ways to get that power. And because they can’t have much say over adults (or their lives!), they try to have power over other kids.

…So they boss them around

…And they tell them what they’re doing wrong

…And they do everything they can to feel “in control”

They are being bossy… because they’re trying to meet their own need for power in a world where they feel they don’t have much.  


How It Usually Goes When

One Child Tries to Control the Other(s)



Hillary and her younger sister Tawny are putting together a play for their parents. Whenever Tawny has ideas for how the play should go, Hillary tells her those ideas are stupid. The only ideas she wants to use are her own.


Mom: Hillary! You’re being so mean to Tawny!

Hillary: No I’m not… I’m just trying to make a good play. Tawny’s ideas will make this into a bad play.

Mom: Don’t say that… How would you feel if someone said that to you?

Hillary: I wouldn’t care.

Tawny: Well YOUR ideas are making this into a bad play!

Hillary: No they’re not!

Tawny: I don’t want to play with you anymore…

Hillary: MOM, I can’t do this play without Tawny! There’s no one else here. 

Mom: Then maybe you shouldn’t be so mean to her…

Hillary: I’m NOT!

Tawny: Yes you ARE!

Mom: OK, that’s it. Since you two can’t get along, this play is NOT happening. 

Hillary: That’s not fair!

Mom: You should have thought of that before you started being mean to your sister.

Hillary: I’m NOT being mean! I’m just being honest!

Mom: Hillary, you’re not the only one with good ideas…

Tawny: Yeah, Hillary!

The three of them continue bickering.


How It Could Go When

One Child Tries to Control The Other(s)



Hillary and her younger sister Tawny are putting together a play for their parents. Whenever Tawny has ideas for how the play should go, Hillary tells her those ideas are stupid. The only ideas she wants to use are her own.


Mom: Hey, you two are doing a play? How cool!

Hillary: Yeah.

Mom: Hillary, it looks like you have a lot of great ideas.

Tawny: But she won’t listen to any of mine!

Mom (slowing down the pace of her voice so she doesn’t get sucked into the chaos): Oh, that sounds frustrating. I bet you want some of your ideas to be in the play too.

Tawny: Yeah.

Hillary: But her ideas are stupid!

Mom (calmly): Ahh, I see that you have different ideas than she does. And you want to use all of YOUR ideas.


[expand title=”CALM”]

Hillary and Tawny’s bickering is frustrating their mom, but she knows if she gets caught up in their frenetic energy and judgement, things will get worse. 

Instead, she reminds herself to model the tone and solutions she wants her children to use. [/expand]


Hillary: Yeah. The play will be better that way.

Mom: I’m glad that you love your ideas, Hillary. That’s great. And you want your play to be full of all of those ideas.

Tawny (starts to interrupt): But Mom!

Mom: Yes, that wouldn’t work for you, Tawny…. So what do we do here? I know we can find a solution that works for anyone.


[expand title=”CONNECT”]

Hillary and Tawny’s mom knows that Hillary is trying to control the situation. She also knows that if she “sides” with Tawny, Hillary will feel even more out of control. She also wants the kids to see that conflict resolution begins with hearing both perspectives. 

So she points out each child’s point of view instead of taking sides. [/expand]


Tawny and Hillary don’t say anything.

Mom: Tawny, what’s something you’d like in the play?

Tawny: I want there to be a duck in the play!

Hillary: That’s so stupid!

Mom: OK, a duck. Hillary, would that work for you?

Hillary: NO! It’s a play about people skiing!

Mom: So you’d like ideas to be related to skiing?

Hillary: Yes!

Mom: Is there an animal that you can think of that relates to skiing, Tawny?

Hillary: I don’t want any animals!

Mom: I am so sure you’d put in a great play all by yourself, Hill. (Pauses to let that sink in.) The rule in this family is that when we’re playing together, we think of everyone’s feelings. Your feelings matter. So do your sisters. Would you like to take a break and come back to the play later?

Hillary (mumbles): No.

Tawny: How about a white bear? They’re on the mountains, right?

Mom: Hillary? You’re good at making plays. Can you work in a white bear?

Hillary: Fine… But I want to say what the bear does!

Mom: Tawny? Is that OK with you?

Tawny: Can I name the bear at least?

Hillary: Fine. Just please don’t name it something dumb.

Mom: Hillary, I can tell this play matters to you a lot. You care what people think. We’re all keeping that in mind. Let’s wait until you realize that. (She pauses for a few moments until Hillary’s body posture changes and she in less Yuck. Mom does not let the girls continue with the play until then.)


[expand title=”CORRECT”]

Hillary and Tawny’s mom wants them to work together. But she knows that they will not be considerate until they are out of Yuck.

She focuses on being firm while offering Hillary and Tawny the tools they need (respect + time) to behave better.  [/expand]


Mom: Are you willing to hear Tawny’s ideas now?

Hillary: Yeah.

Mom: Are you ready, Tawny?

Tawny: Yeah.

The girls continue playing, with Hillary slightly more open to Tawny’s ideas. Mom notes to herself to do some proactive deposits into Hillary’s control going forward. 



What is REQUIRED for In-the-Moment Parenting to Work


Though the girls’ mom used the Calm, Connect, Correct strategy, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to give your child tools to be successful (so they can all be considerate of each other’s feelings), remember: 


[expand title=”Depositing into CALM”]

You will only be able to stay calm when

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

b.) you don’t have the expectation that your children will have the same priorities that you do

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CONNECT”]

You will be able to connect if

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that kids who like to control other kids need help feeling in control in other ways)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CORRECT”]

You will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “You can’t play anymore until you treat each other with respect.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively. [/expand]