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Pink Feathers

Jedi Mind Tricks for Parents


Most parents would love to have a definitive guide to parenting, but being a parent is more of a learn-as-you-go experience. Parenting requires all of your skills, but mental sharpness is one of the most important. You need to be able to react quickly while keeping your cool. You have to be resilient and flexible.


Parenting can be tough, and it does not stop when they are 18. There are, however, a few tricks that I have learned through 37 years of parenting, and 40 years of teaching. My husband calls them my Jedi mind tricks. I love to see his look of awe when I use one that works beautifully. Here are a few of those tricks that have worked for me.


  • Offer choices. Let’s say your child comes to you and says they do not want to go to college, but you would like to see them earn a college degree.

Instead of losing your cool, or beginning to list the many reasons why that is not an option try saying this, “Okay, tell me why?”


Many students, even those with high grades are afraid of college and don’t think they will do well. Open up the dialogue to talk about your child’s feelings.


You can also do what I did when I said, “Okay, what is your plan then?” That simple question made her think about what her plan would look like without college.


When younger children ask to purchase something they can be given the choice between two things.


The point of giving them choices is to make them think they are making the decision instead of being told what to do.


  • Give transitions. Most people operate better when they know when they need to switch from one activity to another. I always used the 10-second rule with my children and students. If we were at the pool I would say, “Okay, we need to leave in ten minutes.” It works great at bedtime because the transition prepares them for what is coming next.

  • Don’t engage in drama. Some children like to stir the pot and create drama where there doesn’t need to be any. It takes two people to cause drama, so don’t engage.

  • Keep your cool. This goes along with don’t engage in drama. There are things your child will do that will make your blood boil, but don’t let your emotions take over. You can teach them how to handle an explosive situation productively. Hand out the consequences for the actions, say how you feel, but express it all as if you are in complete control. Children need to know that someone is in control amid all the chaos of life.

  • Love them when they don’t expect it. Two of my three children went through a phase when they would say, “I hate you.” When I would make them do something they didn’t want to do. I always answered, “I love you.”

  • Maintain consequences for actions. You have to be fair and consistent with the consequences of your actions even when it’s hard.

  • Know the power of distraction. When your children are younger you can use distraction to avoid a tantrum or keep them from doing an activity you would like to avoid. When they are older, you can distract them when you want to change the subject.

  • Use silence. When you want to find out more about a situation ask a question, and then maintain silence. When your child answers you, maintain your silence and see if your child adds anything. Silence is powerful.


I hope some of these ideas will be useful to you. They work as well on adult children as they do on the smaller ones. I often say I have to use them more on my older children. Good luck and enjoy every minute with your children.

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