Parents, Throw Out ‘Should' & 'Shouldn’t'.
By Susie E. Caron © 6/12/15
I’ll get right to the point: Throw out the words ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’. Put each on a piece of paper or a sticky note and rip them to shreds. Now as much as possible, from this day forward do not use these two words as you make your day to day parenting decisions (or correct some parenting mistakes you might have made). I am going to give you a much better word that you can substitute in place of ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’, but I’ll save that for the end of this article.
I want to tell you a bit more about these two words, what they represent and where they came from. That way you can feel more comfortable ripping them to shreds and substituting a much more useful word so you can make more confident parenting decisions.
Let’s examine the words ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’.
I’ll bet there are dozens of times while you’re raising kids that you feel a bit uncertain about what to do next or about some decision you already made. Those are the times you think things like:
Take a moment to consider how you've felt, whenever you’ve thought things like:
Like so many parents I’ve worked with, maybe you feel unsure, frustrated, or worried about
many parenting decisions. However, you may never have thought that there was something
wrong with using these two words.
What’s wrong with using 'should’ and 'shouldn’t'?
The words ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ actually demonstrate that you are judging yourself and your actions by using someone else’s list of rules! When you do, you are also likely feel uncomfortable, because this makes you check yourself to see if you are successfully measuring up. But there is a problem with this. You are trying to measure up to rules that you may or may not actually agree with because they are not your own.
Where did all the ‘rules’ come from?
These rules could have come from some ancestral list handed down over the years (For example: “Kids shouldn’t play outdoors in the rain because they can catch a cold.”) Or, they could be from your own imagined list; something you conjured up because you don’t feel confident to decide based upon what you really want. Like most of us you are doing it unconsciously. You probably imagine some judgmental person watching you and think to yourself, “What should I do?” or “I shouldn’t do that.” I call this kind of thinking, ‘spectatoring’ because you imagine you can see what your behaviors (especially parenting behaviors) look like to someone who could be watching and judging you. That's impossible and futile.
Throw out those words (and don't use them on your kids either.)
When you use ‘should and shouldn’t’ you impose a burden upon yourself to follow someone else’s rules. That can make you feel uncertain, frustrated, and unhappy. These aren’t your rules. It’s not what you want to do. Furthermore the decision you make may not then yield the outcome you wanted. That’s because your kids feel worried and confused when they detect that you have trouble deciding and they tend to respond by pushing you harder.
So what’s the answer to this problem?
Check in with your heart to see what it is you 'WANT' to do. You begin to substitute "WANT" for those two ugly, judgment implying words. From now on ask yourself questions like these:
“What do I want to do?” and answer this way, “I want to send my child to Daycare A.”
“What do I want to do differently next time?” You can answer, “Next time I will give my child a 5
minute warning for supper, and then I’ll unplug the video game.”
“What do I want to do now?” You might say, “I want to skip chores and take my kids to the
You see? It is best to check in with your heart because that's where your best decisions reside. Besides this builds your confidence. So instead of trying to follow some other unconscious list of rules stop using the words 'should' and 'shouldn't and do what is best for you and your child. You're a good parent and the best parent for your child. Use the word ‘want,’ and you will make better and more confident parenting decisions.
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Twee’ Means You & Me
Susie E. Caron
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!