As a psychologist and parent coach, I work with many moms and dads hoping to change some aspect of their children’s behavior, from whining and tantrums to aggressiveness and power struggles. 

While it's tempting to look at what our children do wrong and see the solution as “fixing” them, that approach ignores a key principle of change in relationships.

I like to think of relationships as a dance.  If one person changes their steps, the other person must also change theirs.  This is especially true with our children.

So I tell my clients all the same thing:  you are the instrument of change.  If you want to someone to change, start by changing yourself.   

For example, I had a client who felt that her kids weren’t listening to her. She had to constantly repeat herself and often resorted to yelling at them to get their attention.  I asked her to begin the process of change by observing how she contributed to the problem.

She realized that she was unintentionally “teaching” her kids to ignore her until she yells.  How?  By asking again and again, she was sending her kids the message that she can be ignored until she gives up (she didn’t really mean it) or she yells (NOW she means it). The answer was to stop repeating herself and let her kids deal with the consequences.

So, the next time you find yourself wishing your kids would whine less, listen more, and so on—remember that to change our kids, we have to start by changing ourselves.

Copyright 2014, Erica Reischer, Ph.D.

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About the Author

Erica Reischer, Ph.D.

Erica Reischer, Ph.D., is a psychologist, parent coach, and author. She teaches at University of California Berkeley, UCSF, and other institutions.

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