Microstep Minute: Neutrality

The Background

Very often, conscious or not, we parent from a place of fear, worry, defeat...and we project that. Children are incredibly intuitive, and they can feel what we are feeling. Why does that matter? Because they gauge their response, their actions (what we call behavior), on what we are projecting.

If we are thinking “help, please don’t demand more screen time - I can't handle this!” [self inadequacy] or “wow, I can’t believe how mean she is” [anger’] or “she’ll never get into Harvard if she doesn’t finish her homework” [fear], that is like putting a neon sign on our forehead.

Parenting from that pit in our stomach can go one of two ways. At a minimum, children embody that same fear or anxiety which will only worsen any outburst.

Or they'll spot that crack in your armor, understand their leverage because you are worried or you want something, and grab the opportunity to get something by misbehaving. That yummy feeling of you losing your cool gives them power and is a win. This is not necessarily conscious; it just is.

What is it?

Neutral is steady and calm regardless of how we are feeling. Grounding our authority so we stay in our parent role is like the captain who keeps the boat stable despite turbulence.

When our children perceive that—regardless of their moods or behavior—they can relax, knowing they can count on us to get them through the challenge. The craving for more video time, feeling out of control when mad, not knowing how to do the math: those are all real feelings for the child. They need you to captain the ship.

Imagine on a cruise that the Captain completely loses his cool upon discovering a leak. Would you feel more confident and calmed with his screaming “This is impossible! It’s a state-of-the-art ship! Somebody help me figure this out!”?

Your Script in Action

Awareness: the challenge is to notice that you/your child are on the brink of some sort of outburst.

Step Out of Reactivity: rather than climbing into the thoughts that are going to light up that neon sign, we can consciously make a choice to change our response. (Did I mention that this is hard?)

Think Calm and Neutral:

  • Smile, drop your tongue down, take a deep breath, count to ten: these neurologically calm you.

  • Get curious. Really curious. "Hmmm, since I know that my child wants to do the right thing, I wonder what’s really going on here."

And then? Connect Before Correct.


The next time you feel a struggle coming on, try to take the steps for staying neutral. If you can do it, and it feels good, you are on the path to building a new habit. Keep it up! If you want support, give me a call.

You don't have to do it alone. I've been there, and I can help. Reply to this email or call for a free consult - let's see if we're a fit.

Mary Smith Parent Coach is passionate about sharing practical, powerful habits that take one minute with parents to simply and quickly sow the roots of connection and engagement with their children while creating calm in the household.

I've Been There! Sincerely, Mary