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Journey to Stop 6: Counterwill Clears the Way for your Child to Exist, Separate from You.

When counterwill serves your child’s unique self, it can arise in response to their secure relationship with you, when all is well.

When your child feels secure, they naturally begin to move away from you, both physically and psychologically. So, you might find counterwill when they feel particularly secure in your presence! In this case it’s likely counterwill is serving what is called their individuation. (Great job, parents!!) They feel secure enough to get your will out of the way to make room for their budding individual will.

If this is happening, get out of their way if you can. One way among many that this can show up is in a sudden burst of...

“NO! Let ME do it!”

Yes, that can get very messy and can sometimes take “the patience of Job.” And while you feel others staring at your seemingly irresponsible parenting, don’t expect them to applaud. The greatest benefits of this messiness admittedly lay mostly hidden in the far future, like, the rest of their long lives. Keep it up!!!

If you do need to direct them, and to set boundaries, try getting close to them first with some playfully friendly fun. And remember, you are the parent, so your will does matter immensely. If you can bring in your will without them being too aware that it’s happening, that’s great! And don’t forget that at the end of any seemingly impossible impasse, the grieving of life’s frustrations is also essential to their development. And… if your child gets from anger to sadness, they tend to be more open to your comfort, leading to more connected moments. Ahhhh…...

My love note to parents…

Often counterwill can become entrenched over time, causing counterwill reactions to become a chronic feature of a child’s personality and the relationship between parent and child. Others, and even you, start seeing them as “a difficult child.” They are not “difficult.” You and your child are in one of life’s most difficult situations, doing the best you can in the midst of relational chaos. Mindful self-compassion is appropriate, powerful medicine! These patterns didn’t begin with us, are so often multigenerational in nature, and are even culturally sanctioned! Give yourself a hot bath, a very big break, and seek out some professional guidance. I’ve been there, myself, and can tell you that it doesn’t have to be the last stop of the journey. There is so much more up ahead. Walk on, brave human. And reach out when you need support.

Stop 6:

It’s a journey. Keep going. And remember, you are not alone.


Many of us will often feel very much alone. In those times, remember: You are not alone. The illusion that we are alone comes from life within a culture that resists vulnerability. You won’t hear most people talking about the hardest stuff they face, and it’s usually invisible from the outside. You just have to remember: You are not alone.

Reviewing the Stops:

1. The first helpful response to counterwill is simply to be aware that it exists.

2. The stronger a child feels connection in any given moment, the weaker will be their counterwill. The weaker the connection, the stronger the counterwill.

3. You are not alone.

4. Mistakes are part of healthy parenting!

5. They need lovingly supported practice in the tears of futility.

6. It’s a journey. Keep going. And remember, you are not alone.

Watch our website for workshops on A Wilder Harmony, trauma-informed approaches to living.

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