Creative Parenting – The Use of Space and Place

By Jeff Dwarshuis LMSW ACSW

The direct discipline approach with kids doesn’t always work. Parents can however use UNUSUAL yet effective communication techniques to get increased control of their kids (AND ADULTS!).


People associate events, self, others, thoughts, feelings and situations with specific physical locations. You as a parent can use this idea to encourage your child to continue in a positive direction, think more creatively and/or be more empathic.

For example – If you notice that your child is beginning to listen and share better with you – then the next time you discuss a related topic – talk in the same place. However, naturally and without explanation, take the child’s past sitting position and have him/her sit where you were. Listen to your child about what is happening with him/her and work in questions to make sure he/she understands how you felt about the topic the last time you talked…i.e. “Do you remember how that made me feel when we discussed this last time?” This change in the child’s sitting position will encourage him/her to use more levels of thinking to be empathic…especially with the parent.

Another example – Naturally and without explanation, change the sitting positions at a time the family is all together…perhaps when eating. As everyone is settled and going about their business, begin to talk about positive changes of one or all of the kids. Talk about the old and then the new and have the children (if possible) discuss the joys of positive change. Through an associated shift in location you will be teaching their unconscious thinking that the old is very old and the new is here, now, different and solid. 

All ideas are taken from Jay Haley’s book – “Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson”.




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