Yale Parenting Center
Making Families Stronger March 2017

From Alan Kazdin

Fostering Flexibility

Flexibility in your parenting can be very important.  While most of us consider ourselves to be flexible, so much of parenting seems to require NOT being flexible, so let us consider how this could work.

Raising children seems to require that a parent has fixed rules that should not be compromised.  So many issues, such as bedtime, homework, and the morning routine, require structure and consistency. Whether the home and these routines run smoothly or work at all depends on structure and parent consistency; however, it's important to know that flexibility is not the absence of structure.  Flexibility merely refers to being able to change your view, approach, and rules once in a while in relation to something your child would like.  It reflects the ability to compromise here and there over the course of child rearing. Being flexible at times teaches reasonable compromise, and can even strengthen your relationship with your child.

We hope this newsletter provides you with some valuable information and practical ways you can incorporate more flexibility into your family.


For Parents

A Flexible Household is a Functioning Household

Why is flexibility even important?  There are  several reasons to consider incorporating a little flexibility into your parenting. 

  • Child oppositional behavior (not listening and defiance) will lessen if you can be flexible once in a while.
  • You will teach your child to problem solve and handle situations even when you are not around.  Your child will learn that there is more than one way to do things.  Your being flexible models this and teaches by example.
  • Your relationship will be stronger, especially in the pre-teen and teen years, when your child wishes to exert more choices and preferences.  Your child will come to you more often for help if he or she knows you are not always rigid about solutions. 

An Exercise in Flexibility

Here are some easy steps to start you out on the path of being flexible:

Step 1:  Choose something easy to start with for example food, clothing, or extracurricular activity choices.

Step 2:  Identify what you really want.

Step 3:  Identify what could be some flexible alternatives.


Step 1:  My child wants to get a mohawk hair cut and              I really don't want him to.

Step 2:  I want him to just get a regular hair cut.

Step 3:  Maybe he can get the haircut he wants in                  the summer. 

             Maybe he can get a longer mohawk style.

             Maybe he can choose something else like a              buzz cut or a spiked hair cut.

Now you try it!

Professional Interest

Successful Family Compromise Sessions

When families have disagreements or children challenge the rules, compromise can be an effective tool.  Compromising involves discussing a problem between family members calmly.  We suggest that you choose an easy problem to discuss at first while the family is still learning this skill.  A more heated disagreement can be compromised later.  The therapist should review the rules with the family as well as offer praise for following the rules in session.  Here are the rules families should follow when participating in a compromise session:
1.  Be calm: This is critical! However, you are human too, and this is not always
possible. If you need to you can leave the room or make a phone call—do something that allows you
time to get at least a little more calm.
2. Be as objective as you can: Go into all discussions with an open mind and don’t make
any decisions until you hear all of the information from your child.
3. Be a good listener: Good communication skills are essential to compromise, and
influence each step of the process. Often the problem is clouded by issues in the
relationship or the situation. Sometimes this can make it very hard to be a
good listener. When you are communicating effectively you should acknowledge emotions and ask
questions to make sure you understand the other person's views.
4. Be respectful: Both you and your child should treat each other with respect and
5. Stay on the subject: Do not get sidetracked.  Resolve one conflict, and then move on to the next.
F. Offer suggestions when you disagree: Do not just say ‘no’ to a request. Try to offer
an alternative. even if it is just a small step towards the child’s goal.
G. Focus on the present and what you would like to happen: Do not bring up the past.

For more information on PMT and the skill of compromise, please see our website.

Trainings in Spring

Our training programs have been on hiatus as we have been working on a special project.  Live trainings will begin again in the spring.  Please check our website for more information and dates as they become available.  Can't wait until Spring?  You can purchase video streams for our trainings now and watch at your convenience!  video streams info

What's Happening at the Center

Accepting New Families

The Yale Parenting Center will be accepting new families for our programs in the Spring!  Please check our website here for more information and updates.

Dear YPC

I was wondering if you could help us solve a dilemma.  My thirteen-year-old daughter, Marissa, has been asking to go to the movies with a young man.  We have decided that dating is not allowed until she is fifteen.  The problem is that we argue about this almost every night.  She is upset and angry about the rule.  My husband and I are worried that she will just start dating without our permission and lie about it.  We could really use some help on how to handle this. 
Thanks so much,
Kathyrn and Steve

Dear Kathyrn and Steve,
Thank you for writing us. We would be happy to help.  Dating is a tricky subject. When parental rules are being challenged, especially by adolescents, the best thing to do is to discuss it calmly.  This is no easy task as emotions and worry will run high.  If both parties can discuss it calmly and come to an agreement, there will be less of a chance of your daughter sneaking around behind your back. 

Think about some ways in which you could compromise.  For example, would you approve of your daughter going to the movies with a group of friends that includes the young man?  Would you consider having the young man over first to meet him?  Would it be helpful to meet his parents first?  How about a movie date in which you are in the theater, but you let them sit together away from you?  Think about if you would be willing to try any of these options and then talk to Marissa about them calmly. 

The key is to stay calm.  If anyone begins to get heated, take a break and continue the conversation later.  We hope that this was helpful.  Good luck!

Yale Yale Parenting Center
314 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
T 203 432.9993
F 203 432.5225
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