Have you ever bought furniture from IKEA? Have you tried to put it together with your spouse? It can be quite a test on your relationship! What does that experience look like? You’ve got the instruction book, the tools, 4 million tiny screws, all the pieces of the furniture. What happens if you stray from the instructions and just eyeball it? What is the goal? To make your own furniture with your own style? Or to follow the directions perfectly to make the intended piece of furniture? If you stray from the instructions, what is likely to happen? I hope you aren’t building a chair, sofa, or bed. Because as soon as someone sits on it- uh oh. That crash to the floor would not feel so good to the body or the old self-esteem.


What does this rant about building furniture have to do with a parenting account? Hear me out…

Do you take this instruction following approach to parenting? Are you viewing your parent job the same way you do the job of doing everything just right to build a specific piece of furniture?

Are you into the carpenter style of parenting? Is your child something you can piece together and control what goes where?

What about gardening? Do you have a green thumb or a black thumb? Or maybe a combo of both? When it comes to gardening, there are some general guidelines to follow and things we can learn about the placement of plants, the climate, the soil, the amount of sunlight, etc. But can we follow an instruction booklet to build a garden full of plants that flourish? My front flowerbeds wish that were true! Instead, we must tend to the soil and enrich it. We have to try different things and pay attention to track if the plants are getting too much water, cover them before it freezes, prune back when it’s time, etc.


Do you see where I’m going here? Are you more of a gardener style of parent?

Being a gardener is about providing the space to grow. It’s about enrichment, paying attention, and providing what is needed without attempting to control.

Being a carpenter is all about control. Everything in its place. No screw loose (ha!), and no detail missed.


There’s nothing wrong with structure and having a plan, but when it comes to parenthood, flexibility and responsiveness to a child’s unique temperament and needs is important.  You can save the control and detailed instruction booklet for your Ikea cabinet!

Guess what the research on childhood development shows us is the preferable style… Gardener style of parenting helps support child development and leads to better long-term outcomes.  Giving your child(ren) freedom, providing a nurturing environment, being open-minded and adaptable at responding to their unique needs will allow them to grow with confidence and overall well-being.

Got it? Just be more flexible and less controlling and everything will be great. Easy peasy, right? WRONG!


When you find yourself in the carpenter mode of parenting, it is possible to make a change. It is 100% possible to notice your own behaviors, words, and thoughts so you can make a choice as to what type of parent you want to be.

This is where the work of Whittingham & Coyne on Acceptance & Commitment Training can support your mindset and action toward your parenting approach.

Learning Acceptance & Commitment Training can support our ability to strengthen our own psychological flexibility as parents. Choose what kind of parent you want to be. Pause and notice when you are or are not being that parent. Find the pause or create that pause so you can make changes to your behavior to engage in committed actions toward your values- toward the type of parent you want to be.


I encourage you to pause and reflect on your parenting today.

Which one have you been more of in the last 24 hours: the carpenter or the gardener? How do you feel about that? Which one do you want to be more of in the next 24 hours? What are you willing to try to make that happen?

Ready to learn how to strengthen your psychological flexibility muscles and take steps toward shifting your thoughts and actions towards being the type of parent you want to be? 

Here are a couple ways to do that:

  1. All parents- Please feel free book a free coaching call with me. I’m here to help! Set up a coaching call here!
  2. If you are a behavior analyst (or in a related field) and a mom – Join us for the upcoming Bx Mom Party. Sign up here!