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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

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.

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: 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. 



This situation would not have gone the same way if Tawny and Hillary’s mom did not proactively…

  • Know how to handle her own Yuck (so that she didn’t immediately get sucked into the kids’ Yuck).
  • Recognize that when kids are fighting they are in Yuck, and that engaging with Yuck does not usually solve problems. 
  • Understand that “bossy” kids are usually kids who have trouble with flexible thinking and feeling out of control… and that insisting that they change will not make them more flexible. 
  • Know how to teach her kids HOW to do better by meeting their needs and teaching them tools. 
  • Proactively show her kids that she means what she says when she says that the girls need to wait until they’re both being respectful before they start playing again.
  • Deposit into her relationship with both kids on a regular basis so that she can serve as a “safe” person rather than as someone who puts them deeper into Yuck when they try to help.