Words have a great influence on how we experience our world. Being aware of and noticing the words we use, whether talking to ourselves or to others impacts how we relate to each other.

 This week “should” has been showing up A LOT, both in other people’s language, and my own.

The problem with should is when we use it about things we want to be doing or believe we ought to and haven’t, it’s a HUGE poundage and creates negative energy.

An even bigger trap is when we use it when guiding and leading our children.

The amount of time devoted to anger, frustration and/or disappointment based on the “should” is phenomenal.

For instance, the mother who is frustrated with her three year old for putting small toys like Lego and marbles in their mouth because she believes they know that’s dangerous and therefore SHOULD know better.

Or the parents of an adult child who left a mess in the kitchen after a big night, and were annoyed that they SHOULD have cleaned up after themselves as they do know better.

Or talking to self about not getting a task completed that SHOULD have been done.


Why do we use SHOULD when it causes so much distress?

Let’s look at where the word comes from. (I got geek after seeing this come up so frequently). So that we can figure out better options that are more empowering.

SHOULD is part of a family of words called Modals.

Modals are a special classification of verbs that CHANGE the meaning of a sentence.

Depending on the meaning they express, there are five main types of modal verbs:

  • Modals denoting ability: can and could. I can speak four languages.
  • Modals expressing permission: can and may. May I open the window?
  • Modals for likelihood: will, might, may, can, and could. It may rain today.
  • Modals denoting obligation: must and have to. You must do your homework regularly.
  • Modals for giving advice: should. I think you should stop smoking.

What we can do instead.

Have awareness of the language is the first best step.  Then we can be consciously aware of what do we intend the meaning to be.

In the world of the Law of Attraction and the power of language.  SHOULD is actually disempowering, because it conveys advice/opinion.

Modals may be overwhelming and difficult to remember at first, but the more we have conscious awareness and practice, the more empowering our experience becomes.

Especially when it comes to SHOULD, as it is an opinion and the thing about opinion is that we all have them, doesn’t make it valid, urgent, nor important.

We humans  often use SHOULD inaccurately as a means of judging what hasn’t happened yet and we believe ought to happen.  But what if that’s not quite in the capacity or capability. In that moment in time.

We tend to choose lots of heartache when we use should. 

What if instead we assumed the best first.

Such as If your child doing things that you believe they know they know they shouldn’t? 

It’s natural to be concerned and it’s important to appreciate that all children wish to please us. Even if it doesn’t look or sound like it. 

Human babies and young children know they need us as they cannot look after themselves. Therefore, if we assume best intentions first, that they are doing the best they know how AND are capable of in the moment, we can provide them with the safe haven they need in order to be open with us. 

In order to get clarity about whether your child “should” be doing better, consider the work of Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, particularly “The Whole Brain Child”. This is the book that provided me clarity on why our children might do things that we are confused or confounded by. 

Whether you have the three year old that is behaving like they have no common sense, or the eight year old that has poor impulse control, steals or tells lies. The important thing as a parent is to consider:

      • What specifically is bothering us about this behaviour?
      • What meaning have we given to the behaviour?

Are we worried that this behaviour is an indication of how they will be at 20, if we don’t “nip it in the bud”.

The reality is that children only have enough neurology ie brain capacity and capability for what they need to be operating.

During the years before age 10 while their brain is getting all the pieces, and in the maturation stage through the teen years and into adulthood nature has designed them on the assumption that they will have an adult for support as they learn how to live and make decisions.
Trust the process – enable their apprenticeship.

We do not NEED to teach them much IF we provide them the environment that enables them to learn.

That means, being the model for them to copy. They will be copying us anyway.

BE the type of person we want them to be.

Adulting and parenting IS a lot of responsibility. However, we can make our journey simpler by knowing our child is never doing anything to deliberately be rude, defiant, push back, that doesn’t have good and reasonable response to their experience, based on the environment we create.

The more we relax into parenting, park the SHOULDs and trust that our child will progress in their time in accordance with their development stage, the more likely out child can relax and learn what they need.

You are enough, they are worthy and we all belong.

Together we ARE Stronger.

Author – Leanne G Wakeling – Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor,

Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler.