Be a Container, not a Director

Containers hold things. Containers have boundaries. Containers are strong, predictable, and comforting.

From a mom who spent lots of years trying to fix and direct, this shift has been most transformational.


How do parents help their children develop that strong sense of self?

One way is to shift from being a director or fixer to being a container.

Containers hold things. As a parent you can be a safe place for your child to share and explore their feelings. Listen, reflect and repeat what you hear back to them. Instead of jumping in with solutions or your point of view. Just be a container.

Containers have boundaries. They hold things and they keep things safely inside firm boundaries. So instead of lectures, solutions, deal making, arguing, nagging learn how to set a boundary. “If you are going to scream, you’ll have to do that in your room.” “If you don’t get a 3.0 on your report card, I’ll be unable to pay your car insurance.” Set the boundary and stick to it.

Containers are strong, predictable, and comforting. Kids learn to be okay with their feelings. They learn that uncomfortable feelings are part of life and they can tolerate them. They learn that you trust them to handle uncomfortable things. Kids build belief in themselves and an inner strength that has nothing to do with pleasing others. It has to do with being themselves.

From a mom who spent lots of years trying to fix and direct, this shift has been transformational.

Why Parents Should Stop Trying To “Fix” Homework Anxiety

Homework tears yet?

One thing I’m working on is letting my kids have some time in their struggle before I jump in to “fix” it.

As parents, we are tired at the end of the day too. We want the homework over with as much as they do and we, just like our kids, have probably used most of our mojo for the day already. This leaves us tired with less capacity to do our best work as parents.

Slowing down and understanding your child’s perspective and experience can be really valuable. Instead of forcing the homework, we can take time to ask questions and understand.

Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, recommends identifying the difficulty and asking the question “what’s up?”

This is the sentence frame.

  • “I noticed you’re having difficulty with….what’s up?” Now, just listen.
  • “I noticed you’re having difficulty getting started on your math every night, what’s up?”

Adults jump right into problem solving when we may not truly understand the problem. Often what our kids need from us is not a math tutorial, it’s just to be heard and understood by you.

So give curiosity and listening a try. In the long run, building these foundations of trust and communication will be more valuable than their ability to comply with their thirty minute nightly reading.