Parenting Thoughts: Changing “I Should” to “I Could”

Parenting Thoughts: Changing “I Should” to “I Could”

I recently heard someone talk about changing our “I shoulds” to “I coulds.” It resonated with me on a personal and professional level, as it seems so easy to get caught in the trap of stressing about everything I “should” do. When we think of things in terms of “I should,” we exist in a pressured state of feeling forced to do something. Thinking about what I “could” do shifts us into a mindset of choice—I am deciding in this moment whether to do this thing. It not only sounds different, but it feels different to phrase options from the perspective of “I could” instead of “I should.” There is an internal mindset shift that occurs when we do this; and it allows us to move forward with trying to do the things we could, instead of getting stuck in the mode of pressuring ourselves to do what we should.

As parents, we have the opportunity to think about our children and families in terms of “I coulds.” Instead of making lists of all the things we “should” do, why not think about all we could do and accomplish? Here are some simple ways we can apply this thinking to our parenting and the relationships we have with our children:

  • I could spend a few minutes of 1-1 time with my child each day.
  • I could have my child help me with a chore I need to get done.
  • I could plan a simple activity that our family can all do together each week.
  • I could get the playroom/bedroom/office/garage organized.
  • I could be more consistent with my response to the negative/inappropriate behavior my child exhibits.
  • I could read that book/journal/blog I find interesting.
  • I could be more patient with my children.
  • I could set limits for how much time my children spend watching television and playing video games.

How about you? What are some of the “I shoulds” that have been hovering over you and your life? Take a few moments to write down all the “shoulds” that come to mind – jot them down in whatever order you think of them. Your list might include household chores or projects, such as doing the laundry or repairing something that’s broken; personal ideals such as losing weight; activities with your children, such as a weekly game night; time with your partner; etc. Once you have your list, go through and read each one using the phrasing “I could…”. Notice how you respond mentally and physically to thinking about each item on your list as a “could” versus a “should.” When these things arise for you on a daily basis, focus on shifting into the choice mode of “I could” instead of the pressure mode of “I should.” Notice the impact this way of thinking about things has on your relationships with your children, your productivity during the day, and your personal sense of accomplishment. Here’s to more “I could’s” and less “I should’s”!

Authored by: Nicole Beurkens

Nicole is the founder and director of the Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia, Michigan, is a licensed clinical psychologist with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and a master’s degree in special education. She holds a professional teaching certificate and has been certified in many specialized therapies for Autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Beurkens has authored numerous articles and books, and writes a popular newsletter for thousands of subscribers each week. With a background in child development, classroom teaching, family-based therapy, and research, Dr. Beurkens is an award-winning therapist, consultant, and speaker for families and professionals throughout the United States and abroad. You can find more of her strategies for parents and professionals, and sign up to receive her newsletter at

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