Playing the Should Game

Mom!! I want to be the boss! I wish you weren’t the boss!

IMG_4259It feels like I hear this exclamation at least once a day, but I’m sure it’s less frequent. Our strong, independent daughter is figuring out ways to be autonomous and doesn’t like hearing redirection.

I wish it were that easy – I am the boss of this house! and everyone just did what I asked. That never happens. The thing with about raising humans is that ultimately, my girls are their own bosses. I can suggest and give consequences; I can guide and give expectations but their choices are their own.

Sometimes I play the should game. I should have clearer boundaries; I should be stricter; I should say yes more; I should be on the floor playing rather than writing.

Here’s the thing with should. It’s a no-win game. Sometimes should prompts me to reprioritize but it’s usually rooted in guilt rather than best practices. Sometimes should helps a situation or reframes a power struggle but it’s usually as a last resort.

So, I’m trying to take a step back and recognize our family’s own best practices. What are systems I can put into place that dispel the struggle before it starts? I know that if we start the day with a quick snuggle (no matter how tired or grumpy I am) and then quickly move into some sort of protein-rich breakfast, the rest of the morning goes smoothly. Instead of saying, We should eat breakfast first! I’m saying, I know my family is happier when we follow this pattern.

It’s a small shift in phraseology but it’s a big shift in mindset. Maybe I should practice this more often.

How do you reframe expectations? Is there a time you found a shift in phrasing a situation has changed your perspective?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “should.”


Published by

Annie Rim

Welcome! I live in Colorado with my family and have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I reflect about life, faith, and books here on my blog.

14 thoughts on “Playing the Should Game”

  1. Hi Annie – I’m right next door to you at FMF this week (at #21) and I am really glad to have read your post. I totally agree that “should” is a no-win game, and I love your ideas about how to rephrase it so that it becomes a positive thing, rather than a response to pressure and guilt. This makes so much sense in parenting and in all areas of life, really. Thanks for sharing these insights – they are really helpful.

  2. Great post, Annie. Yes, I certainly have gone through a rephrasing – doing it now, actually.

    There was a definite paradigm shift when I realized that it was not a question of being upset by all the things that I ‘should o’ and did not accomplish, but one of being grateful for what, under the circumstances, I still CAN do.

    That one revelation has brought a measure of peace to a situation that is daily more fraught.

    #1 at FMF this week.

    1. Gratitude is certainly a best-practice for reframing my outlook! When I stop and recognize how incredibly thankful I am for all I have, well…. It definitely shifts my attitude!

  3. My two big kids have lots of opinions too. I constantly struggle with giving them room to be independent and trying to prevent misbehavior and chaos.
    “Sometimes should prompts me to reprioritize but it’s usually rooted in guilt rather than best practices. ” Yes! I find that when I function strictly out of should, I sometimes do the right thing, but usually for the wrong reason and the change rarely lasts. Thanks for some important things to consider here.

    1. Such a balance…. I want them to be strong and independent but also follow directions and show respect. Whew!! 😉 But, it definitely changes things when I come at redirection from a place of love rather than guilt.

  4. The mommy pulls…they’re a challenge and rife with shoulds. You’re recognizing a lot and learning your family’s rhythms. Things always seem better when we’re dancing to the same beat. 😉

  5. Oh Annie. I loved this. And that picture of your girls? Priceless! My kids have taught me a lot in reframing expectations. And yes, I’ve had to get off the task-driven pony I’m riding and meet my kiddos where they’re at. When I am intentional in doing this, I find things go more smoothly too.

    And maybe this story will make you feel a little better. When my guys were little, one had (has!) a very strong will. I would have to remind him who is in charge.
    Me: “Who’s in charge?”
    Him: “I am!” With a fervent finger pointing to his chest.
    Me: “Who’s in charge?”
    Him: “I am!” with a glare.
    Me: “Who’s in charge?”
    Him: With a pouty lip and a softer tone. “You are.”
    And then the hugs came.

    They do like to be in control and it’s tricky to set the boundaries, isn’t it? I love how you’re sharing your mama lessons. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Jeanne! I know… Such a tricky balance – I guess we don’t ever get it “right” but just do our best and trust that God is bigger than my parenting. 😉 (Thankfully!!)

  6. What a calm and reasonable way of thinking. It’s all about a change in perspective, isn’t it? Love this: “Here’s the thing with should. It’s a no-win game. Sometimes should prompts me to reprioritize but it’s usually rooted in guilt rather than best practices. Sometimes should helps a situation or reframes a power struggle but it’s usually as a last resort.”

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