My tip today is that you are not in a competition with your child. Obvious, is it not? Not quite. Parents often report feelings of losing to their children. But children are not actually competing for control. They are actually testing your ability to keep a structure. Remember that kids derive their sense of security from the structure that is set up by their care givers. Usually, the one bringing competition in the equation is the parent. Looking at discipline as a competition can lead an adult to adopt a competitive attitude, thus gauging parts of his/her character that will help win the dispute. Think of how you generally look at competition. I often see parents who become overly aggressive, agitated and stressed because they cannot accept the feeling of losing to a kid!

Reframing this idea can help parents become more contained. It is more useful to view children as little examiners, testing our ability to maintain boundaries and structures in their lives. Our children need to see us firm, solid and secure; that is where they get their sense of protection and safety. It is seldom about having their way all the time. My advice is for you to keep your word. Maintain your promises, even if you promised a consequence. Children will slowly learn that you mean what you say. And you can see that you are in control.


– Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness.  He offers parent coaching and social work sessions.  He can be contacted on