How Parents Can Make Lasting Changes

Another elephant metaphor?

Yup! There are two of them in Raise the Child You’ve Got—Not the One You Want, so this makes three. Several years ago, when I began sharing my message about the importance of accepting children for who they are,  a common response was, “But it’s soooooooooo hard!” Hearing this as many times as I did reinforced my determination to help parents understand what to accept and what to guide, and to share a step-by-step method that was clear, concrete, and user-friendly.

A good method is just the first step.

People need to be motivated to change. The parents who are most motivated to change are usually in unbearable pain, due to constant battling with their child or chilly disconnect, and they are willing to do what it takes. But what about the rest of the parents? Is it possible to make a conscious effort to shift towards leading with acceptance if your relationship with your child isn’t (thankfully) close to hitting rock bottom?

Enter Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. These two smart brothers explain why it’s so hard to make lasting change in our lives, even when we really want to. They liken the process to riding an elephant. Each of us has a rational side, the part of us that wants to lose weight, or stop yelling, or be more accepting. This rational side is like the rider atop the elephant.

Motivate the elephant for lasting change.

We also have an emotional side, the part of us that defaults to our old, bad habits, when we are stressed, or angry, or otherwise not in tune with our rational plan. This is the elephant. The elephant is always bigger and stronger than the rider, and will do what it wants to do (yea, tell me something I don’t know!).  It is crucial to motivate the elephant to want what our rider wants, so our intentions are in synch. How do we do that? By FINDING THE FEELING. Knowing something intellectually is not enough to motivate change. We must FEEL it in a compelling, visceral way, if we are to motivate the elephant, or make lasting change.

This is why I SPEAK about leading with acceptance everywhere possible. In a room full of parents at an event, or one-on-one over a cup of coffee, it’s the stories, the anecdotes, and the fleeting memories that expose the raw reality of what it’s like to feel unseen and unaccepted. It’s in this space that we are faced with the wounds we desperately want to avoid inflicting on our children.  Hearing the unvarnished truth helps us FEEL it. And that motivates the elephant.

Do you find this to be true when you try to make changes in your behavior?


  • Listening says:

    Each time I read from your book and even this blog it rattles me. I am very grateful that the relationship with my adult child is not a gbad one. I just want it to be better. Your book is helping me. I have recommended it to all of my nieces and nephews. who are raising children as well as anyone who may be feeling challenged as a parent.

    • Nancy Rose says:

      Thank you for your support and feedback. Hearing that the book is helping you improve your relationship with your adult child is so gratifying. Kudos to you!

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