Letting the Chips Fall: Control and Letting Go with Your Children

It's natural to have a game plan—maybe even a blueprint—for our children. But when things get tough, can you go loose? It might be the key to accepting everything from a fresh dent in the car door to larger issues that come up.

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite game shows was The Price is Right. I liked the game “Plinko”—where contestants earned “plinko chips” by accurately estimating prices of household goods (prominently displayed for the camera and, of course, flanked by beautiful, overly smiling models). At the cue of host Bob Barker, and with chips in hand, contestants climbed the steps leading up behind the “Plinko” wall so that they could release them one at a time, pinball style, down the wall and toward their dreams of “Showcase Showdown” success. Chips bounced about off of pegs placed tightly across the wall, eventually landing in slots at the bottom that were assigned prize dollar amounts. There was no way to know exactly where things would end up. The chip might start on the left, veer toward a thousand bucks, only to end up all the way over to the right in Zilchville. Some contestants seemed like they had a strategy to their plinko-ing, but it was really chaotic and random. Only the Plinko gods, (or maybe some secret magnetic remote in Bob Barker’s pocket), could control the outcome.

This is how much of my clinical work has seemed over…