Do You Want to be the Bringer of the Grins or the Bringer of the Power Struggles?

This week’s blog comes from Parenting with ABA by Leanne Page.

Do you know what one of my favorite parenting tools is?

You guessed positive reinforcement, didn’t you? Close- but today I’m going with HUMOR!

When things are tense- can we help ourselves and our kids to crack a smile to defuse the situation?

When my kids are in a bad mood, it’s easy for me to slip into traditional kneejerk parenting reactions. It’s easy to become overly firm and frustrated. This is when voices rise. Tempers rise. Power struggles begin. Who exactly is winning here? I’m not happy with my own behavior following a tense interaction let alone my kids’ behavior.

What if instead of getting firm we got silly? Can we salvage the situation, the morning, the day? I say HECK YES!Mornings can be hard for so many families- mine included. Getting up on time to get out the door by 7:30am for elementary school is not easy for my oldest. After a few rough days of trying all kinds of different things to just get my girl out of her funk, I hit the jackpot. Instead of being firm in the form of “You do it or I’ll help you do it” through the morning routine, I opted for humor. My girl was grunting and moaning and making all kinds of unpleasant noises instead of doing her morning routine. I asked our smart home thingie “Hey google, can you translate cave man talk?” and “What does (insert grunting noises here) mean in English?” I communicated back to my daughter in cave man grunting noises. She cracked a smile. I turned up the silly drama with noises and gestures to communicate to her what she needed to do next in her morning routine. And guess what! It worked! Not only did it work that day but as soon as I started pantomiming things or making silly noises the next day- a grin! Mornings got smoother for several weeks without me even needing to help her do her routine. Then one day, she had a hard time again. Instead of kneejerk over firm parenting tactics, I tried humor. And it worked like a charm!

When else have you heard me sharing about being silly? In getting our kids’ attention before giving an instruction. Try talking in a silly voice, singing, whispering, or rapping. Try silly faces and hand gestures to act out what you need them to do. Get their attention before giving an instruction but also get a smile as you are interacting with your kids!

Get that grin and helping your kids follow through is a million times easier!

And the best part of all- laughing together helps that highly desired true connection with your kids. Not only does it defuse a situation or help them follow instructions- it strengthens your relationship. It helps your kids to feel safe and secure with you- you are the bringer of the smiles, not the bringer of the threats of punishment or the bringer of rasied voices and power struggles.Next time you feel your own temperature rising because your child is not listening, pause. Try hard to use some humor. The first time or two it really is HARD because your instincts are to be firm and stand your ground no matter what. But breathe and consider the big picture. Do you want your kids to think of you as the bringer of the smiles or the power struggles. Be silly. Get the smiles. Then the instruction following is easier. Save the situation and also strengthen your relationship.

Embrace the silly!

Leanne Page, MEd, BCBA, is the author of Parenting with Science: Behavior Analysis Saves Mom’s Sanity. As a Behavior Analyst and a mom of two little girls, she wanted to share behavior analysis with a population who could really use it- parents!

Leanne’s writing can be found in Parenting with Science and Parenting with ABA as well as a few other sites. She is a monthly contributor to, guest host for the Dr. Kim Live show, and has contributed to other websites as well.

Leanne has worked with children with disabilities for over 10 years. She earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Texas A&M University. She also completed ABA coursework through the University of North Texas before earning her BCBA certification in 2011. Leanne has worked as a special educator of both elementary and high school self-contained, inclusion, general education, and resource settings.

Leanne also has managed a center providing ABA services to children in 1:1 and small group settings. She has extensive experience in school and teacher training, therapist training, parent training, and providing direct services to children and families in a center-based or in-home therapy setting.

Leanne is now located in Dallas, Texas and is available for: distance BCBA and BCaBA supervision, parent training, speaking opportunities, and consultation. She can be reached via Facebook or at

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