Five Easy Steps to Create Healthy Family Dynamics!

by denny hagel on November 13, 2011

In order to help you create healthy family dynamics, I am going to ask you to play a little game with me for just a moment.

What happens when you try to fit a square peg into a round hole? You can push and twist and turn and shove and all you will get is resistance. Sure, you might wear down the corners a bit from trying to force the square shape to conform to the round opening but the reality is that it is never never going to fit properly.
You have tried your hardest, given it your all and now you are left feeling frustrated and anxious. And in the end you have most likely damaged the peg and the hole from attempting to make them one. Although you see the beauty of the square peg by itself with its unique shape and size and many possible uses and recognize the value of the round hole offering equally important aspects, you have decided, for whatever reason, that they should be intertwined and become one unit in the same.
Your frustration brings you to the point of throwing your hands in the air, feeling defeated and worn out, wanting nothing more than to walk away…but your heart won’t let you…
Now, using the example described, let's apply this same concept to how we raise our children. Let’s place You in this scenario as the round hole and Your Child as the square peg.
When you think about the challenges and struggles of raising children most often the conflicts appear when the child (square peg) has a different perception than the parents (round hole) and the parents insist their perception be the same.  Throughout past generations this has been the approach and the criteria of parenting.
  • IF your child obeys-does what he is told-he is considered a “good” kid.
  • IF he has his own ideas and perceptions, he is considered defiant and uncooperative.
The parenting paradigm of our parent's generation revolved around making children succumb (trying to force the square peg into the round hole) to the ways of the parents. However, many parents in our generation disagree with this parenting philosophy. But, as the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding” so let’s look at the effectiveness of the past generation's parenting philosophy…

How do we do that?
We begin by looking at the results of being raised by this parenting approach, that's you and me! A look at the status of today’s adults and their level of success in the main areas of life…financial, relationships and personal fulfillment are a good indicator.
FinancialOur country is influenced by greedy corporations that have succeeded in gaining control over the bulk of the monetary resources (about 1% controls 90% of the wealth) while the rest of the country struggles and suffers and sacrifices sometimes even with things as basic as their health. Millions and millions of people are working at less than fulfilling jobs simply to survive… feeling trapped and overwhelmed to pay their monthly bills.

RelationshipsAt last glance statistics showed that 2 out of every 3 marriages end in divorce. And that only addresses those that even get married. For the rest, living with whoever the current “mate” is considered acceptable. Where two people once dated to establish a relationship in order to determine their level of compatibility, they now simply live together and if it doesn’t suit them after awhile no harm no foul…just pack up and move on. The sense of deep lasting commitment is rare.

Personal fulfillmentHave you seen the shelves at the bookstores lately? The self-help industry is BOOMING! Books to help uncover, discover, examine and heal almost every area of our emotional life is available to the point of creating a billion dollar business in the last few years alone. Apparently happiness and joy are not the prevalent emotions.
This all tells me that the process by which our generation was raised by did not produce the results our parents intended.
Like it or not, we are all a product of our childhood. Right or wrong, positive or negative we are geared to pass on what we learned from how we were raised to our children unless we consciously choose to approach parenting differently.
The following five suggestions are designed to alter the parenting paradigm that many of today's parents inherited from their parents. The goal is to apply these suggestions in order to produce the results we desire…raising children who are confident, courageous, clear about their worth and approach life with a strong sense of personal responsibility. In doing so, empowering them to create a life that is successful in all areas bringing them the true joy and happiness that all parents want for their children. AND creating healthy family dynamics along the way!

  • 1.   Don’t Tell…Ask!
    When you speak to your child
    ask them for their help, ideas or opinions rather than telling them what you believe they should think or do. Incorporate the same respect in your choice of words, tone and manner that you wish to receive from them.
  • 2.   Accept choices that are different than what you would choose!
    Children need to be able to choose based on their own preferences. You may like to read sitting in a chair but your child might prefer lying on the floor! You might really enjoy a meat and potato diet but your child might feel better eating salads.
  • 3.   Offer options rather than orders!
    When your child faces a challenge offer options and guidance to help him choose what feels right to him rather than ordering him to do what you think is best.

  • 4.   Honor differences!
    When differences between you and your child are established, honor those differences. Be careful not to negate his preferences. It is through the process of establishing who we are and being allowed to be who we are that builds self-esteem.
  • 5.   Celebrate uniqueness!
    We are all unique individuals and like to be respected as such. Show interest and enjoyment in the unique qualities in your child. Being loved unconditionally is the single greatest gift a parent can give to a child.
Our children are not meant to be forced into living their lives according to the ideas and thoughts and beliefs of anyone's other than their own…not even their parents. When parents impose their ways upon their children, denying them their right to be themselves, not only will the child be impacted negatively, but so will the relationship between the parent and child.
Implementing these five tips comes down to choice…one that only you can make. Make the decision today to change how you relate to your children and create healthy family dynamics. The improvements in the dynamics and direction of your relationship and family environment will follow.

Skills, tools, insights and strategies to
BE the Best Parent YOU Can Be


Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parenting coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 150 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 24 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has nearly 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".

  • Naomi

    Love the analogy and love the ideas that you are presenting Denny. Parents can often try and make the fit but you cannot make something work that is impossible.

  • Anastasiya Day

    Denny, I love your great ideas and I love reading your articles! Brilliant post (as always) :)

  • Anastasiya Day

    Denny, I love your great ideas and I love reading your articles! Brilliant post (as always) :)

  • Hughie Bagnell

    Hi Denny…using the “square peg in a round hole” analogy is awesome! Thank you for the five suggestions to help create or empower true joy and happiness! …Hughie

  • Claudia Looi

    I grew up under the shadow of a neighbor’s daughter, all because of parents were ‘doing unhealthy comparison studies’. The 5 suggestions you gave are key for raising confident kids. Great article.

  • Angela Brooks

    With a teenager finding out who he is and what direction he wants to go in – your articles always come at the right time :-)

  • Anonymous

    Denny, you know I’m not a parent.  So these questions are “innocent,” yet sincere.   Where does discipline get instilled?  At what age do you start “asking” instead of “telling” if a child is functioning from the non-critical thinking (subconscious) mind from birth until about age six?  How does personal responsibility form?  I guess what I’m trying to understand is where the line is between allowing the child the freedom to develop as an individual and abdicating one’s responsibility as a parent.  Am I totally off base?

  • Denny Hagel

    You are not off-base Sharon and these are great questions. All of which are addressed in what I refer to as a “healthy parenting mindset” which of course is what all of my work is based on.  This new parenting paradigm approaches raising children from a perspective of relating to them in a way that honors them as the individuals they are…The parent’s responsibility shifts from one who “tells and orders and chooses for them” to one who inspires and guides by offering options and possible consequences then allowing them to choose for themselves.  This begins at a young age in areas that are not potentially dangerous of course…but, for example,  in allowing them to decide what they like better, peas or carrots, or playing with dolls rather than trucks or napping on the floor rather than in a bed. “Discipline” shifts from punishment to learning through the  consequences  of their choices which automatically translates into an understanding of their personal responsibility. If they choose to sleep on the floor and wake up with a sore back, they most often choose the bed next time. Generally speaking children are very smart and when left to their own devices naturally go toward what is good and positive.

  • Denny Hagel

    Thanks Angela, so glad to hear that they help! :)

  • Denny Hagel

    Thanks Claudia…I often hear of stories where comparisons caused problems in self-esteem and confidence. Although some parents have good intentions thinking it is a way to motivate…the opposite is true.

  • Denny Hagel

    Thank you Hughie!

  • Denny Hagel

    Thank you Hughie!

  • AJ

    Great advice as always Denny! Helps keep me on the right path with your advice on parenting.

  • Denny Hagel

    Well said Naomi!

  • Scarlett Von Gunten

    As a mom to 7 children, I definitely see each of my children’s unique differences. They are extremely creative and amazing!! Finding ways to recognize and encourage each one as an individual is so important!! :)

  • Carol Giambri

    Great ideas Denny and always great insights to parenting. Such a smart “cookie.”

  • Jennifer Bennett

    Love your point Denny to celebrate uniqueness. If only every child could really see and understand just how unique and wonderful they are, this world would be a different place.  

  • Olga Hermans

    A lot of hurt and pain could have been avoided if we as parents and even in relationships only would really realize that we are all different and unique and that’s why we are all valuable. Plus, that is exactly the reason why we need each other. Thanks Denny for pointing that out to us one more time. We ALL need it! :)

  • Sue

    I love this article, Denny.  It’s easy to see how we can be damaging out children by having expectations of them that is only in align with “our” thinking”   Honoring someone by respecting what they are thinking, especially when different from ours, is a great characteristic and we will end up having much better relationships.  As always, awesome information!

  • Solvita

    Great tips Denny! especially I like the #1 don’t tell…ask! thanks for sharing! :)

  • Donovan Grant

    Thanks for that refreshing post Denny. I love the metaphor of square pegs in round holes; it makes the point so brilliantly and gives us a clearer understanding of some of the problems facing our young people. What many of us need to realise is that it is not only the children who need to adjust their habits, parents can do with some adjustment too. This quote is awesome reminder that anyone can be a leader “When you speak to your child ask them for their help, ideas or opinions rather than telling them what you believe they should think or do.” Cheers!!

  • Cheree Miller

    Excellent advice, Denny! I definitely experienced these challenges when raising my son… we are as different as night and day! Early on, I tried to mold him into a “mini-me”. It was obvious that wasn’t getting either of us anywhere but frustrated and angry. It wasn’t easy, but I have learned to celebrate his differences and allow him to be him. Thanks for another great article!

  • Joanie McMahon

    I really like those 5 points Denny …… 

  • Robert Seth

    Thanks for the wisdom Denny!  My children are adults now but I sure could have used this advice when they were growing up.  Fortunately I figured it out before it was too late, but it would have been nice and less stressful to have known it in the beginning.  Thanks again!

  • Annemarie Cross

    I LOVE your 5 steps Denny – they are so very important. I’m learning so much from you – and with three (actually now two) teenagers in the house and one 20-year-old, your insights are valuable! Thank you!

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