Five words that could change everything

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

You know the saying, "dance like nobody's watching"?

I have my own version.

Okay It's totally different.

But it's still worth remembering.

Mine conjurs an image that's a little less Woodstock and a little more Mr. Rogers.

It's one that I can lean on in my hardest days.


"Parent like someone is watching."


When things get real – like they so often do – just pretend you are not alone.

Simple, yes.

But more powerful than you might think.


Imagine that in the room with you is someone you respect.

Not anyone who would ever judge you, but someone who's attitude, opinion, and parenting is an inspiration.

Someone who helps you tap into your own patience and compassion.


Whether fictional or real, imagine them at the edge of the room.

Your sister. A friend. Or heck, Mr. Rogers himself.


Then parent like they're watching.

And watch as you find a hidden well of patience and kindness that you didn't even know was there.


Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

Because here's the thing.

When I'm around like-minded friends or even strangers I can rock this.

I'm on my game.

I don't act like a bully or cave to constant distraction.

And when things go haywire I rise when I could dive.

Just knowing others are there gives me the strength I need to draw on.


I suppose that is community – in one form or another.

It's connection.



And yes, accountability.

To see ourselves more clearly through the eyes of another.

To feel like we are not alone.


The truth is, you are not alone.

We are all walking our own paths, but they are parallel.

We're each there doing our own work, just out of each other's line of sight.

And we have up days and down days.

Magical days and disasters.


We all struggle sometimes.

With patience.


Or presence.


Today I was briefly a jerk to my kids.

They both needed compassion and I was shorter and less tender than I could have been.

And then I realized that I might have acted differently if someone was watching.

Not because anyone else matters more than my child, but because I would have been more self-aware.


It was awakening.


Because my kids are more important than that.

And yours are, too.

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

 So today – wherever you are and whatever goes down – parent like someone is watching.

Someone you adore, respect, and love.

Someone who matters more than anything.

Parent like someone is watching.


Because someone is.


Yes. Of course.

Someone is.


Parent like your child is watching.

Because indeed. And of course.

They are.





29 thoughts on “Five words that could change everything

  1. Jane says:

    Oh, how I needed these words tonight after an endless day of sibling squabbles, and mama tantrums. Parenting is lonley work. Thank you!

  2. KC says:

    This is lovely. Today I felt very proud of myself. After a whole day of fighting between my daughters and scratching and biting the day finally ended in a huge squabble over nothing really. But I decided instead of giving in and just putting the instigator in her room so she could get her anger out there rather then on her sister, I decided to just hold her. I held her tight like a baby as she bucked and screamed and tried to scratch at me. Then I began to hum to her and I just held her and rocked her until it was over and she took a huge breath like an exhale of relief. Then she asked for water and did not start another fight the rest of the night. She seemed relieved and thankful that I had stepped into to help her guide her anger. I think I will do it more instead of stepping back in fear or annoyance at her rage over little things. Maybe all her rage against her sister is a cry for more attention?

  3. Kim says:

    I like this and will try to remember it in the harder moments. Perhaps this is the saying that should be on your next promotional product. I could see it on t-shirts with Lupine and or Sage artwork perhaps. Or as a print with one of your lovely photos and this text overlaid on it.

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    The standard NVC line is “connection not correction”. It sounds like you found a way to keep everyone safe and also connect. Lovely. Hoping today is smoother for you all, KC.

  5. Sagetribe says:

    This is beautiful, Rachel, and so true. There is something about recognizing when we are “off” our game that I think is so important. The acknowledgement that we make mistakes and can/must work to be better, instead of ignoring or blaming someone/thing else. It’s self care. Working to figure out the ways I can be the best me and then forgiving myself when I’m not.

  6. Tamika says:

    I needed this. I feel as though I crave the sense if community . I enjoy being alone with my kids, but day after day we are alone…and we all seek outsiders. I feel like this could be modified for the kids as well, for they take each other for granted day after day, I have to say, “play with your sister like she is your best friend and you don’t want her to leave mad at you” or something like that.
    Funny, I’m not a fan of tv time, but on really crummy days, we have started watching the beginning of mr. Rogers! I love the little life lessons built in,and my kids think it is awesome!
    Also, I think my husband especially parents differently when people are around. At home, he goes with the flow, but when we are at someone’s house (his parents) he is more likely to yell across the room “no,no,no” to our offending toddler, than to get off his behind and fix the problem. The people we are around can have a negative or positive impact on how we parent and live in general. This is the reason we spend a lot if time alone, I chose to cut out the negative people that were slowly influencing my style.

  7. Cassandra says:

    I’ve struggled hardcore with fear of judgment and my mother negatively influencing me. It has been a few weeks filled with tears and I’m hoping I’m coming out the other side. My biggest problem at the moment is my daughter screaming about every little thing and I so desperately need her to just stop so I can think. My will power is completely drained keeping myself from smacking her, I don’t know how to cope with earpiercing screams every 5 minutes. If someone was watching me, I’d break down and cry the whole day fearing the judgment of my “out of control brat”. Online strangers are the only positive parenting influences I have sadly.

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    That sounds incredibly hard, Cassandra. I’m sorry you’re going through such a challenging time. If I were there with you I would acknowledge how hard it is to experience what you are. I would tell you how wonderful it is that you are holding it together as much as you are. I would tell you that you are not alone. (And for the record your comment made me remember a time when I kept ear protection nearby so that when my little one was screaming in arms I was not screaming along with her.) Hugs.

  9. Katie @ Life With The Crew says:

    Being aware of how you are acting and reacting is so important and so difficult sometimes. My little babe has changed from being a happy-go-lucky little babe to being an independent, I want to do everything myself, little babe, who also has started screaming. I keep telling myself that all little kids act like this at some point. Sometimes I feel that it is because I am trying to get too much adult stuff done and that she needs me to just focus on her, so that is what I am trying to do. To just be with her at the moment.

  10. Sarah says:

    Thank you thank you thank you, so much. Really. We are in the midst of one of the toughest weeks I’ve ever had as a parent – my son received two diagnoses this week, celiac disease and autism. With all the the attention focused on him, my daughter is NOT having it and I’ve felt myself slipping more and more into “pissy mama” mode. This will be my new mantra for the coming weeks as we figure out what’s next, and try to get ourselves back to a place of peace. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart <3

  11. Meg says:

    I have totally noticed that I do this. I am really going to try hard to remind myself and my husband this. On a bit of a side note, today an elderly man approached me and three of my four young children while we were grocery shopping. He said “being a mom is so hard and I want to help”. He handed me $20 and said I of course said thank you but please don’t give me your money. He said ” I am 89. I don’t need it. Being a parent is hard and I want to thank you for doing it”. Can you believe that!? How kind! In turn I will be sure to be a bit nicer to everyone I encounter today.

  12. Anneli says:

    This is so powerful and yet so simple and easy to comprehend and remember, much more powerful than what I usually try or think I ought to try,like focusing on words like, connect, feelings, solution or trying to think of my kids as newborns and go back to the feeling I had when I first held each one of them in my arms. When in the heat of the moment these efforts are so easily gone. “Parent like someone is watching” Yes, it has already created miracles. Thank You for the reminder.

  13. Bronwyn says:

    Fantastic post, Rachel! Just what I needed to hear on a long weekend with my husband away!Yes, the kids are watching taking notes on how to do this one way or another when they have their own. What could be more important than giving them the tools to parent well as we give them the tools to do do many other things as they grow. There is no spectator more important in the arena of parenting. I’ll remember that when I feel like giving in and raising my voice.
    Thank you for the image of us all walking parallel routes just out if the others line of sight. I wi remember that too when I need to.

  14. Sara says:

    you know what means as much as your wonderful post? Having all these amazing people checking in, saying, “Yes. Me too. Oh goodness. yes.”

    so many of the problems I face as a parent, stem from feeling alone and like everyone else has it so much more together. Thank you for holding space for this.

  15. Anneli says:

    “Parent like someone is watching”. I have to comment on this again. It really works for me, not all the time but much more often than when using other strategies. But someone is’nt anyone. It’s definetly not my mother, oh I’m not a good parent when she’s around. I don’t feel comfortable thinking about anyone that I know IRL. It has to be a no judging person who doesn’t focus on the child’s behavior and fast solutions but on the relationship parent-child. I imagine you being there with me or Dr Laura Markham at AHA Parenting.

  16. Amand says:

    I like this idea! i sometimes do this in general — pretend like someone else is there — because it a) keeps me accountable, b) helps me see things in perspective and find the humor in it. Glad I’m not alone in this!

    And I think we all have those moments where we parent less than ideally. It can be so hard to maintain patience and perspective. It’s good our children just need good parents and not perfect ones because I surely am far from perfect!

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