Empower Kids by Teaching Them Want v. Should

emotional intelligence intentional parenting parenting tips teaching kids to think Dec 02, 2021
The Power of Want v. Should

Have you ever stopped to think about the difference in how it feels when you say “I should”, versus “I want” to do something?  I’ve been playing with this concept myself a lot lately around cleaning and organizing my house, but you could apply it to every area of your life.  Just a slight shift in perspective can make a world of difference, and teaching kids this concept early could be life changing.  

I coached a Mom this morning who is learning to keep her cool with her kids when she gets frustrated. We talked about the difference in how it feels when she thinks I should be better at keeping my cool and I should be better at staying calm — versus I really want to become a calm and patient parent that is able to teach my kids how to best handle frustration.

Thinking that she should be better at keeping her cool and staying calm made her feel frustrated and ashamed and kept her in a place of frustration.  When she thought about the parent she wanted to become, it helped her shift out of the frustration.

Should is a way that we shame ourselves, because the implication is that we should already be doing what we think we should do.  We should have done it differently or sooner, and we have failed before we even started.

To see the difference yourself, imagine telling yourself I should declutter. (Because who doesn’t need to declutter some more?!)  How does telling yourself that you should declutter feel?  Not great, right?

When I think that I should clean and declutter, it feels heavy and can make me feel ashamed and defeated.  And, when I feel defeated — the absolute last thing that I want to do is clean and declutter, so these thoughts are totally counterproductive.

Now imagine changing that thought to I love my home and want to make it beautiful.  Doesn’t that feel so much better?  I know for me, I feel inspired to get to work!  That thought doesn’t feel heavy, it feels uplifting and draws me toward that which I want.  I find myself doing the work to make my home beautiful, and actually enjoying the process.

Either way, the work hasn’t changed.  I am still cleaning and decluttering, and my client is still working on keeping her cool. What changed was that instead of telling ourselves what we should do, we figured out what we wanted.  

When you figure out what you want and act from that place, you are so much more inspired.  To say “I want” feels completely different than “I should” because you are claiming your own personal power when you speak up for what you want.

That was what my client discovered this morning when she changed her thoughts from what she should and needed to do, to what she wanted to do.  When she was in the land of shoulds, she was coming from a place of judgment.  Judgment and shame shut down the learning centers of the brain, and it stalled her progress before she even got started.  

These past couple weeks I have been writing about managing lists and making time for what matters most without doing more.  I invite you to revisit some of the “shoulds” on your list, ask yourself why you think you should do it, and if you really want to?

You may find that some of your “shoulds” on your list are there because of what you believe someone else will think of you.  In that case, ask yourself: what would I most want to do if I wasn’t worried about what someone else would think?

Caveat: notice that I wrote what you believe they will think.  

Let’s be real, you never know what someone else will think, and people think about us a lot less than we think they do.  So consider getting really clear on what you want most for you, not for others.

Once you get clear on what “shoulds” are on the list because they are something that you really, really want, I recommend that you shift your thoughts from thinking about them as something that you should do, to something that you want to do so you become more inspired to take action.

I also invite all of you to get your kids on board, and have them try to catch you when you say “should”.  Put a “should” jar on the kitchen counter where you have to put a quarter in the jar every time they catch you.  Bring awareness to it, and then work on rephrasing it to what you actually want.  

This is a great way to teach your kids how much more empowered you are when you replace “should” with “want”!  Think about the difference it could make for them too.  Imagine how “I should practice” feels, compared to “I want to become better at...”.  It’s a totally different vibe.

Your words are powerful — start paying attention to how you use them, and teach this concept to your kids.  Imagine your children growing up using self-talk in a way that empowers them, instead of beating themselves up.

If you want to create time for what matters most, without doing more — I have a gift for you!  Download the worksheet that I use to help clients sort through their lists and make time for what matters most, go to to request a copy.

Kids don’t come with a Parenting Manual, and parenting in the 21st Century is so different than it was for our parents.  That’s where I come in!  I know all of the latest research and strategies, and I teach parents to keep their cool and communicate better so they can effectively navigate the challenges of modern parenting.  Go to if you want to learn more about me or to access other articles and parenting inspiration.

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