Desperate for Answers? The 6 Steps of Low Demand Parenting Will Change Everything

low demand parenting foundations parenting practical tips Jan 19, 2024

6 Steps to Change Everything


Parenting often feels like an intricate dance of expectations and demands, leaving us entangled in the web of "shoulds" and "musts." In the pursuit of a more connected and vibrant family life, I've outlined six transformative steps that delve into the heart of low demand parenting.


1. Name Demands

Using a demand-lens means looking at the world with a “can’t, not won’t” perspective. When our kids are not able to meet our expectations or are struggling with big behaviors, we back up and say, “Something is too hard right now.” Then we get curious, wondering what it could be. 

Demands can be explicit external expectations (“put on your shoes so we can leave,” “finish this assignment in silence before the bell rings.”) Demands can also be subtle or implied external expectations (like putting your hand up for a high-five, expecting a high-five back). Demands can also be internal expectations, like our own idea of how we want something to go, or the internal experience of excitement or anticipation, or even bodily expectations like needing to eat, poop, or sleep.


2. Know What Matters (and what doesn't)

Here’s the main problem: Everything matters. In the moment, it feels like wearing shoes matters, leaving the house on time matters, speaking nicely to our siblings and parents matters, using words instead of hitting to express ourselves matters, learning independence skills matters, getting exercise and socializing with friends matters. Everything matters!! And so when our 12 year old is melting down on the way out the door and we STILL have to help them tie their shoes, and we are all going to be late to soccer practice, we explode. 

In this step, we step back from the present moment to get clarity on what actually matters and what doesn’t (at least not as much). We hone in on our priorities, and name what we can release for now When everything matters, nothing matters.


3. Listen To Our Kids

Our kids are communicating with us all the time, and all of this communication is an act of trust. They are trusting us to listen, to respect what they have to say, and to help them get their needs met. However, lots of this communication comes in ways that can be hard for us to genuinely hear. When our kids are yelling at us or using big wild behaviors to communicate. When they have motor planning challenges or apraxia of speech or situational mutism and communication gets stuck inside them. When they react strongly to direct questions or prolonged conversation or multiple asks in a row. We truly want to listen to our kids, but it is so very hard.

In the low demand process, we learn to listen to it all. Grunts and moans, tears and hits, silences and yells, and eyes screwed shut. We ask, “What is this telling me?” with gentle curiosity.


4. Drop Demands Wholeheartedly & Proactively

This is where the majority of people are actually stuck (without knowing it). Most people drop demands half-heartedly in the moment. This is frustrating, demoralizing, and disconnecting, and it doesn’t lead to the ease and joy we are looking for. 

To drop demands wholeheartedly means doing the deep work to explore two things:

  1. What need this demand is touching on for you? This enables you to find alternative ways to get that need met, or grieve what is simply not going to happen, and
  2. What gift you are giving to your loved one by dropping something that is too hard?

To drop demands proactively means that it is done, whenever possible, ahead of time and on purpose. Proactive demand drops remove the source of the dysregulation, so you don’t need a crisis solution at all.


5. Meet Our Own Needs

In this step, we explore what needs are lurking underneath all the demands, unmet. We are all trying to get our needs met in a variety of ways, some of them more or less successful. To truly unlock the connecting power of low demand, we tap into radical acceptance for ourselves. We let go of shame or judgment that evaluates whether we “should” need this, and accept what our bodies long for with curiosity and acceptance.

There are always new ways to pursue getting our needs met. In the low demand method, our goal is to find ways to meet our own needs while honoring what is too hard for others. We met our own needs within the bounds of the real life we are living. Sometimes this means teeny tiny steps. Sometimes this means drastic life shifts. In a surprising way, meeting our own needs deepens our trust and connection with others and enables us to show up in love.


6. Create Family Culture

Low demand approaches will transform your relationship to your children, your partner, and yourself. It will remake your family culture around trust, respect, connection, and acceptance. Sometimes people start out only using a low demand mindset and method for one struggling kid, or a kid with a certain diagnosis. But this often backfires, as it puts extra strain on other relationships in the family system. In truth, everyone wants to be deeply trusted, respected, connected to and accepted by the people they love, especially their parents. Low demand is not only for “certain kids.” It is for everyone.

As we increasingly adopt these affirming mindsets and practices for every member of the family, we begin to create a fresh family culture, free from shame, judgment, and control. 

Quiz: "Why is everything so hard?"


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