We Are Not Carpenters


Last week I had the opportunity to teach Control Theory to a really awesome group.  Truthfully, I think I learned as much as anyone.

We were having a great conversation about actual situations that were really challenging, and how to approach these situations through a control theory lens.  And as much as we all had a shared understanding that the only person we control is ourselves, and that we all have different pictures of how to meet our needs – it struck me how easy it is to slip into thinking….

“How do we use control theory to make this kid do what we want?”

This comes from a good place.  We see kids making destructive decisions, and we believe in them and want more for them.  But at the end of the day, none of us has the ability to control someone else.  We can create the conditions for growth and change, but we cannot force someone to take that step.

I wish I could remember the gentleman’s name who came up with my favorite line of the week.  If there is anyone out there reading this who was in the group and knows, please comment below so that we can give credit where credit is due!  He said:

“We see ourselves as carpenters.  We think our job is to build good kids.  But we aren’t carpenters.  We are actually Home Depot.  We can give kids the tools, but it’s up to them what they build.”

I can’t think of a better way to explain the shift in thinking from stimulus response to control theory.  You nailed it, sir!

The next time you find yourself frustrated because you can’t make a kid do what you want, remember – you are but a hardware store!




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