“Drivers” are phrases most parents say to their children
very, very often
– at least once most days.

They can be stated kindly or callously, quietly or loudly,
but the message is always the same:
“If you want to please me [your parent] you will do this.”

Infants sense, from birth on, that their very existence depends on their parents.
(Displeasing someone with life-or-death control over you is frightening!)
The fear of displeasing the parent is always present
– at least until the child leaves home.


There are five drivers or phrases that all parents say (or imply)
to their kids on a regular basis.

They are:

In the saddest of families there is even a sixth driver: “Don’t Be.”


Examples of good parenting:
“Oh, it’s only a scratch!”
“Relax. It’s not that bad.”
“You’ll be OK, take it easy.”

Bad parenting:
“I’ll give you something to cry about!”
“You’re just a big baby!”
“Grow up!”

It’s important for children to learn
that they can be strong sometimes and weak at other times.
Parents teach them this by showing them
that there are differences between big pains and little pains,
and by demonstrating to them that they can survive nearly all pains.

It is also important for kids to learn
that acting strong when you feel weak
is actually being weak!
And that acting weak when you are feeling strong
is dishonest and tricky.


Examples of good parenting:
Good Parenting:
“It’s time to go now.”
“Let’s hurry, or we’ll be late.”
“Mommy’s waiting…..”

Bad parenting:
“For God’s sake hurry up!”
“You are so lazy!”
“Should I get the paddle?”

Children need to know that
deciding how to spend time is a cooperative endeavor.

Kids need to learn too that
both hectic hurrying and deliberate stalling are manipulations.


Examples of good parenting:
“You can do it.”
“Do you want to do your best on this?”
“You really worked at that!”

Bad parenting:
“You’re such a slug!”
“Don’t stall on me young lady!”
“If you get a low grade again I’ll….”

Children need to learn that strenuous effort,
deep relaxation,
and everything in between are ALL valuable.

A child only owes effort that they either freely promise
or that they need for survival.


Examples of good parenting:
“You did a great job on that!”
“I like it when you do something so well!”

Bad parenting:
“Why can’t you be like Judy?”
“C’s are not OK in this house!”
“Don’t you ever learn?”

Children need to learn that
the pursuit of excellence in a self-chosen area is wonderful,
and that doing your best is fun,
but it is seldom a necessity.

Perfection is impossible.
The pursuit of excellence is a process.


Examples of good parenting::
All of the above PLUS a million forms of seduction
(“promises” and “bribes”).

Bad parenting:
All of the above PLUS a million kinds of threats.

Everything we tell a child to do shows them what pleases us.

What they need to learn
– and what we need to learn –
is that we can love, accept, and be proud of them
even when they don’t please us.

Pleasing us and displeasing us are both options.
Children need much experience at both
to prepare them for adult life.


Physical abuse teaches children that their behavior is more important than they are.
Abusive parents teach kids “Don’t Be.”


Cut down on the number of times you say any of the “drivers” with your children.

For every time you use any “driver”
use the following “allower” at least twice:

For “BE STRONG” The Allower Is:
“It’s OK to be weak (sad, scared, etc.) sometimes.”

For “HURRY UP” The Allower Is:
“Take your time.”

For “TRY HARD” The Allower Is:

For “BE PERFECT” The Allower Is:
“Take risks… make mistakes… learn.”

For “PLEASE ME” The Allower Is:
“Please yourself… Do it your way…”

For “Don’t Be” The Allower Is:
“I’m so glad you are here!”

Notice which driver hurt you most in your life,
then use the appropriate “allower” very frequently…
when talking to yourself mentally
and when dealing with your children.


You are more important than your successes.

You are more important than your failures.

Your children are more important than their successes.

Your children are more important than their failures.

The person is always more important than the behavior!

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