Analiza Wolf

We Can't Control Our Kids: With Analiza Wolf

What do you do when you ask your kids to do something and they don't listen? Do you try to force them to do what you want? Or have a big fight about it? If so, there’s something that you can try!

This episode of The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast is about my all time favorite subject: parenting. Here to discuss this with me is Analiza Wolf, Executive Coach, Facilitator, Consultant and CEO at Boss Mamas.

Analiza’s 5-year-old daughter is an artist who loves to read. The issue is that she wants to do these activities all day long, including during mealtime. Analiza would love for her daughter to share that time with them, but she just doesn’t want to. Analiza has tried a bunch of things to get her daughter to focus on dinner, even spoon-feeding her, but nothing has worked.

There are so many other options to try! I suggest to Analiza that she make dinner an exciting time. That way, instead of forcing her daughter to eat, she takes an interest by herself. And in the case that she really doesn’t want to eat at that time, that’s okay too! The food will still be available to her when she gets hungry. By not battling for control with her daughter, Analiza will regain some time to take care of herself, and her daughter will know she is trusted to make her own decisions.

How to handle temper tantrums 

Let me just get something out of the way: parenting is my all-time favorite subject. I love talking about how to be the best parent possible, because there’s so many different interpretations of what it means to be a stellar parent. Today we’re going to focus on just one part of parenting: the concept of getting “control” of your kids.

What do you do when you’ve asked your child to do something several times, and they still don’t listen? Do you punish them? Lay down major consequences? Or do you get into a big fight with them about it? If lots of these things are happening — and they’re contributing to a tense and disagreeable home environment — then I’ve got some ideas on what you might be able to try. 

I’m going to throw a scenario at you real quick. This might be familiar: you call your child to dinner, and they refuse to come. No matter what you do, they ignore your calls, until eventually you have to yell at them or force them to come to the dinner table and eat. And even then, it’s a chore. They don’t want to sit in their seat, it takes them two hours to eat their food, you end up spoon-feeding them; the list goes on… 

That’s a problem, because you probably have other things you want to get done with your child. You want to help them take a bath, and once they’re clean you want them to be around your family and play games, or watch something together. You know: you want to experience things as a family. But the dinner part of the equation (and in this instance it’s dinner, but it could be anything) is making life hard. You’ve come to dread that particular part of the day, because you know it’s going to lead to an agonizing moment full of temper tantrums and misery. 

How can you break this cycle? It comes down to knowing your role as a parent.

Parenting a strong-willed child 

Here’s the thing about parenting your child when they’re a strong willed person. While you might think your role is to take control of their life and make sure they get the nutrition, cleanliness, happiness (etc. etc.) that they need, it’s not. If they’re starting to refuse aspects of your daily schedule, that means they’re making a statement about who’s in charge. They’re saying “I’m a human being, and I’m in control of what I do with my body.”

For instance, imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine someone told you that you needed to have dinner at 3 PM today, and you had only ten minutes to eat that food. Maybe you wouldn’t be hungry. And maybe you’d feel pressured and rushed. Let’s take it one step further: what if someone spoon-fed you your entire dinner to make sure you ate? That sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? None of that contributes to a healthy eating environment.

So, maybe it’s starting to make sense why your strong-willed child isn’t eating dinner when you call them. They’re not actively trying to defy you. They’re simply making a statement about who they are and what they need at that moment. 

So if dinner time was your problem as a parent, this is what I’d suggest: stop forcing your child to come to dinner. If they’re going to throw a temper tantrum about it, don’t make them come at the time you call them! Instead, do everything else as you normally would: put food out for them and invite them to dinner, but don’t make it mandatory. 

Eat with the rest of your family, and once you’re done, clean up everything but their plate. Leave it out for when they want to eat it. Instead of letting your child control your dinner, have such a wonderful time at dinner that your strong-willed kid hears you talking and laughing and says, “What the heck is going on in there? Can I do that, too?” 

And if they don’t come to dinner? That’s fine! Like I said, leave that plate out and let them get nutrition on their own time. I can hear a lot of you already thinking: “How can this be? How can I let my five-year-old child decide what they eat and when they eat it?! They’ll starve!” But the thing is, your kid is already deciding that. They’re doing it anyway. And all you’re doing is further complicating life by tying your happiness to the expected outcome of whether or not they join you for dinner. 

How to be a good parent 

In the end, even as parents, all we can really control is ourselves. Our children may be young, but they’re their own people, too. And they’re going to make choices about what they do and eat. There doesn’t need to be punishment or reward systems for things like this, because those consequences are already natural. If someone doesn’t eat, the consequence is that they’ll get hungry, and then decide it’s time to eat. 

My advice to you? Stop looking at things as though it’s what you’re supposed to do as a parent. “My child should be this way, though. They really should eat dinner with us.” Well, why? We’re very attracted to the idea of how things need to be, but it’s not how the world works. 

This applies to everything. To dinner, to bedtime, to baths and to play. And do you know what’ll happen as a result of letting go of control regarding your child’s habits? They’ll start to really trust you. And that’s the most empowering thing you can do as a parent: put trust in your child.

Want more parenting advice? Listen to this podcast episode about getting a handle on your kids, or visit my coaching site for more hands-on parenting training.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast.  

Today I am over the moon about our guest. Her name is Analiza Wolf. She's a friend of a previous coaching client, so everybody's a friend in my world when people are connected. But she is a podcaster. I was on her podcast not too long ago, it's called Boss Mamas. And... you know what? Let me just introduce her. She does a way better job of telling you about herself. So Analiza, welcome!  

[00:00:39] Analiza Wolf:
Thanks, Kim. I love being able to be on both sides of the podcasting world. So thanks for having me.  

[00:00:45] Kim Ades:
So, I mean, I recently learned... very, very, very recently learned that you were in the US army. [Chuckles] 

[00:00:55] Analiza Wolf:
Yes, I am a military brat. So, my dad was in the US Navy for 22 years and we lived in a bunch of places. And then I followed in his footsteps, and he actually told me "you should apply for the US Air Force". So he said "of all the different branches, this is the best one. You should go there". 

[00:01:13] Kim Ades:
So, you're a pilot?  

[00:01:14] Analiza Wolf:
I was not a pilot. I actually did not score very well on the flying tests. It was like a video game and I did terrible. [Chuckles] So they said, you know, "you're pretty smart at languages and you have an engineering degree. I can get you as top secret clearance". And I did a lot of international relations, negotiations, and then some creation of a new aircraft for the Air Force. So, it was pretty fun.  

[00:01:36] Kim Ades:
Wow, incredible. And then you started a business and you were involved in bringing education to people who need it. Tell us a little bit about that.  

[00:01:46] Analiza Wolf:
Yes. Also comes from my childhood. I'm a child of a very amazing Filipino immigrants. From Philippines to the United States, I was born here and it's been huge for me to give back.  

[00:02:01] Kim Ades:
Where are you now? Because not everybody knows.  

[00:02:03] Analiza Wolf:
Aahh! Okay, so I was born in San Diego, but I moved to New York City. So, that's been for the last, over a decade. But my roots and education really come to going to schools in my low income neighborhood in San Diego, and they were pretty bad and it wasn't– thank goodness for my mom who got me and my brother a better school, that we had a different trajectory.  

So we went to good schools. I went to Stanford, he went to UCLA, he's an aerospace engineer and I've had my career. So, I owe a lot to schools. And so my career for the past 15 years has been based on starting schools for low-income kids, and that's what I bring forward to even my new adventure. 

[00:02:45] Kim Ades:
So tell us about Boss Mamas. What is that about? What are you doing?  

[00:02:50] Analiza Wolf:
So, Boss Mamas is this idea that you can have impact in the world, be a leader, and also be a mom and be a person who takes care of themselves, does their passion, sees their friends, is able to sleep and take care of themselves. 

So, that's what I stand for in the non-profit world. It's a tough thing to say, because people will ask, you know, "are you really committed?" And I don't think that's really fair. I think you can be committed to your kids, to the movement and also be committed to yourself. In fact, how do you actually pour from an empty cup? You know that old adage?  

So you've gotta make sure you fill yourself and that way you can be even more impactful in the work world.  

[00:03:29] Kim Ades:
I totally agree with you. I think that this whole idea of absolute self-sacrifice isn't sustainable. It just isn't. And so, you're right. Many, many women, and I see that in our coaching world for sure, many women run themselves ragged trying to prove themselves in the world. And I see exhausted, sad, angry, drained women. I see that an awful lot.  

[00:04:00] Analiza Wolf:
I mean, that resonates for me too. Kim, I mean, I was that person coming home like, grumpy and I'm, you know, showing up to my young kids like, grumpy, like, is this what life's about? Really? I have to wait until I die? [Laughs] You know, I'm like in deathbed to be like, here is liberation for me. So absolutely, I don't think we need to wait that long. We can have it now we just have to choose and then make some choices and live it.  

[00:04:23] Kim Ades:
I agree. Couldn't agree more. So I'm excited to be talking to you. But what I want to do is ask you, like, what's your coaching challenge today? What do you want to be talking about? How can I help you?  

[00:04:34] Analiza Wolf:
So, I'm excited to talk about my problem. [Chuckles] The issue I want to face now with you is about my daughter. She's five and I'm really proud of her for so many things. But the issue I'm facing right now is that she is tough. Like, she's a tough minded little girl who knows what she wants and has her plan, but it's not necessarily always coordinated with the family plan. 

So, one of the issues that we face on a daily basis is dinner, for example. Dinnertime happens, we'll call her to the table. She's an artist. I love that she's an artist, but she'll say like "no, I'm working on my project" or "here I am, I'm reading. And no I'm reading". And so we'll call her, we'll call her and she won't want to come. 

And when she does come, we'll eventually trade to say "okay, you can read your book at the table or you can bring your art to the table", and she'll be so focused on her projects that I end up either one, we sit there for like an hour and a half to kind of get through dinner and it's pretty miserable. Or two, I will then just like try to spoon feed her and she's five, so that's not okay.  

But either I sit for an hour and a half or I will do this feeding thing, and it's not fun for me either way, but at least we get it done in half an hour.  

[00:05:53] Kim Ades:
Okay. So, let me ask you some questions, okay? So just to understand the situation. At what point do you call her for dinner?  

[00:06:04] Analiza Wolf:
We call her for dinner... Do you mean the timing wise, right before? We'll say "okay, we're going to have dinner in 10 minutes, so it's coming", and then we'll give her another warning coming in a few minutes and then we'll call her.  

[00:06:17] Kim Ades:
Okay. And then she refuses.  

[00:06:19] Analiza Wolf:
Pretty much. If we really try to insist, then it becomes a tantrum.  

[00:06:23] Kim Ades:
Okay. And then there's a negotiation and the negotiation sort of sounds like "okay, fine. Come to the table and bring your stuff, your projects, your book, your art to the table". And then when she has her art and her book at the table, does she talk to you? Or is she ignoring you?  

[00:06:41] Analiza Wolf:
Ignoring. Not necessarily us, but just focused on her project.  

[00:06:45] Kim Ades:
Okay. So there's no conversation.  

[00:06:47] Analiza Wolf:
No, not really. 

[00:06:48] Kim Ades:
Okay. And what happens in the one hour and a half? Like, what's taking place? Why are you sitting there?  

[00:06:54] Analiza Wolf:
When does trying to get her to motivate to finish? Like, "have a couple bites. You can do it. You can turn the page, you're going to have a bite". And then I try to talk to my husband and my son, while all that's happening. It's long. 90 minutes is way too long.  

[00:07:11] Kim Ades:
90 minutes is way too long. Okay. So, you're either spoon-feeding her to rush it up or you're sitting in waiting.  

[00:07:21] Analiza Wolf:
Pretty much.  

[00:07:22] Kim Ades:
Any other strategies? What else have you tried?  

[00:07:26] Analiza Wolf:
Well sitting and waiting. It's like, motivating, right? I think both sides of it's trying to motivate. Like, "have a bite. I'll hold this page until you take a bite. How was your day? What's your book about?" So trying to engage her. so, it's strategies around that that make it a little bit different.  

Oh, and I've also tried closing the kitchen. So "you eat now, that's all you have". Setting the timer [chuckles] "you have 30 minutes to get it done". And we've seen her pretty much blow it off. She's just like, "I don't– it's fine". And then we will hold the kitchen, close it. And she doesn't have access to food and she'll be hungry because she didn't eat that much. But we'll hold it, hold it, hold it. And then she'll cry.  

So, we've done that. It's somewhat effective, but then it goes away. After a while she forgets and she's not eating anymore. What else have we done? We've done stars, you know, try to like, "if you've finish at a certain time, you'll get a treat" and it's hard because she doesn't get long-term payoff.  

[00:08:29] Kim Ades:
Got it. Okay. So, what I find is the most fascinating is I think a lot of parents misunderstand their role with their child. And it's really fascinating to be talking to you in particular. So I'm going to give you a few kind of steps in this process, because what it sounds like is when your daughter isn't eating and it's taking too long, you get impatient.  

[00:08:55] Analiza Wolf:

[00:08:56] Kim Ades:
So, tell me a little bit about that part.  

[00:09:00] Analiza Wolf:
So, I want us to move on to our next activity, you know, play games together, or going to bath time ritual, and it feels like we can do this in half an hour and her continuing to eat. So my inpatience comes from "this is our family plan right now, this is what we're doing, and I really wish that you could work with us so that we can move forward and you get nutrition".  

[00:09:30] Kim Ades:
I understand all your motivators. I get it. Like, I'm not questioning that, right? But what's happening on the inside of you every night? 

[00:09:44] Analiza Wolf:
So, what's happening in the inside is this dread about this time we're going to spend together. When it's actually happening I'm just like "here we go again. I really wish that she could eat. What can I do differently that she can eat now?"  

[00:10:02] Kim Ades:
Okay, perfect. So, I'm going to go back to this whole thing about your role. Okay? So, as parents, we believe our role is to manage our children and to get them to do the things we want in the timeframe we want them to do them. Right? 

[00:10:18] Analiza Wolf:

[00:10:19] Kim Ades:
That's what we think we're supposed to be, but it's not. Okay? So, our role as a parent is to take care of ourselves while our kids are figuring it out, while our kids are being kids. And so that's why it's called parenting. Parenting is about the parent, it's not about the child. It's about the parent. That's why it's called parenting. Otherwise it would be called childing. It's not, right?  

Okay. So, this fits into your kind of view of life. As a parent, my child is presenting me a challenge and that challenge means it's a cue that I've got to take care of myself in this moment. 'Cause if I come into the situation with dread, I'm not taking care of myself. At all, and I'm doing it every single night. Imagine going to work with dread every single day.

[00:11:08] Analiza Wolf:

[00:11:09] Kim Ades:
Something's off, right?  

[00:11:10] Analiza Wolf:
Right. [Chuckles]  

[00:11:12] Kim Ades:
And here's the other thing: you can't actually manage your kids and your daughter is making a really huge statement about it. And, you know, there are lots of things you have to do for your kids, but at the end of the day, they have ultimate control over what they eat and when they eat and how they eat. And they take that control from birth, right? If they don't want to eat, they're not eating. Period. End of story. 

You can't force a kid to eat. So, your daughter is saying "I'm in control of me". The issue is you're trying to figure out a way to, you know, not undermine, but to step in and control that element. So I think, you know, you said she's strong-willed, she has a great deal of power, I've never seen a five-year-old kid who has projects [chuckles] but so it's great, right? Like, amazing. 

[00:12:03] Analiza Wolf:

[00:12:04] Kim Ades:
Such an interesting child! Such an interesting child. So, let's play it out a little bit differently. Let's remove your need to control when she eats and how much she eats and how long it takes. Removing it from your agenda. Your job is to make sure she has food to eat. Right?  

So, when we look at what is the natural consequence, you can provide food, you can put it on the table. You can say "we're eating as a family now". Great. She doesn't want to come? No problem, you're going to have a great time in the kitchen. You're gonna have such a great time that she lifts up her head and says "what the heck are they doing?" 

And if she doesn't want to come, that's fine. You remove everything but her plate. Leave it there. Let her decide when she wants to eat. And you're thinking to yourself "she's five years old. She's not allowed to decide that", but she is deciding already. Do you understand that? She's already doing it. Except you're at a battle with her. 

Don't battle over this. "Hey, you want to eat? It's up to you". Like, you know, I'll tell you one thing. I was spoon-fed as a kid.  

[00:13:25] Analiza Wolf:
Really? [Laughs]  

[00:13:26] Kim Ades:
Of course! I was spoon-fed as a kid. My mother sat there and like, shoved food into my mouth. Why do you think I have weight issues now? 

[00:13:34] Analiza Wolf:
Oh no!!  

[00:13:35] Kim Ades:
So, I don't recommend doing that. She's five years old, she can manage her own eating. Encourage her to do that. In fact, say "Hey, I want you to eat when you're hungry". Imagine if you had to eat dinner at 3:00 PM and someone said "you only have a half an hour to eat it". You'd be like "what do you mean? I'm an adult. I get to decide when I eat, it's my body" and you're not allowing her to manage her body at all. Right?  

So what we want to do is say "here's when the family's eating, we would love for you to join us. And if you're not going to join us, that's okay. But we're going to move on to the next family plan and you're invited to join us" and you don't even have to say "after you eat", "you're invited to join us. The food will be here, here's where you eat", and let her eat when she's hungry. There's no need to have a battle.  

Like, imagine if you didn't have food when you wanted to eat, when you were hungry, right? So, you're changing the game here. And the primary part about changing the game is you need to take care of yourself. No more dread. That's not a good family dynamic, right?  

So part A is you need to take care of yourself. Part B is you need to give control to your child over what she can control. And by the way, over what she already is controlling. So give her control. Say "here's the food. You can eat it now, you can eat it later. Here are the parameters. We're going to move on. Food will be here. You can come and get it when you want. If you don't want it, you can put it in the fridge and eat it later. Bedtime's at whatever... eight o'clock". That's it.  

But what happens is suddenly you've simplified your life. And if she wants to grab something from her plate to go, if you're going out, okay. Why not? You would do that for yourself. Right? So ease up is really what I'm trying to say. Stop trying to control things that are not in your control. Especially for a five-year-old, right? She's not a baby.  

And I know that a lot of parents are going to say– they're blowing their minds going "how can that be? How can you let your five-year-old daughter determine what she eats and when she eats?!" She's doing it anyway. She's doing it anyway. And what are you doing? You're creating a situation that is less than ideal for you. Sitting at the table for 90 minutes is not ideal for you. Don't do it.  

And also, when you're spoon-feeding her while she's not paying attention, not good for her. It's not good for her nutrition. It's not good for her body. It's not good for her to absentmindedly eat. Right? That's what adults do and that's why they struggle with their body and their nutritional intake. Not a good idea. Does that make sense?  

[00:16:45] Analiza Wolf:
Yeah, that makes sense. I think that idea that it's parenting controlling our own selves and the things within our own control is huge. And then allowing her to choose, particularly when she feels her body wants to eat, because that is something that I don't want to– set up food issues later when she can't even go back to that feeling. So that's really motivating for me to at least not cause harm. So I wanna really take that on as well. 

[00:17:16] Kim Ades:
But also, when we look at– you know, parents often think "well, what we're going to do is we're going to create systems of... either motivating systems or punishments or–" like, you know what? There's a natural consequence here. It's natural. The natural consequence is "when we're done, we won't be here for you to eat with. You'll have to eat by yourself". That's a natural consequence. You don't need any more than that. You don't need stars. You don't need punishments. You don't need a fight. You don't need anything. You say "here's how it's going to work. You get to choose. If you want to eat with us, we'll be here. If you don't want to eat with us, we won't be here". She gets to choose. 

[00:18:02] Analiza Wolf:
Great, Kim. I appreciate this. Yeah, I really do. Especially when I reflect back on all of control that I feel like I didn't really have as a kid. So, it's helpful to reflect on like, maybe I'm recreating some of these things now. So, thank you.  

[00:18:19] Kim Ades:
I'll throw one more thing in. I think as parents, we are misled by the idea that things should look a certain way, right? "Well, this is what I'm supposed to do. This is how it should be. She should eat within 30 minutes. She should sit at the table with us. She should follow the family plan". Why?  

You know, we're attached to the idea of how things need to look and how they need to be. And what I'm suggesting is, what if that didn't have to be that way? Right? Like, imagine trying to tell your husband "you need to eat within a 30 minute timeframe". He'd be like "why are you telling me how long I have to eat? Really?" [Chuckles] Right?  

So think about it like that. It's a different paradigm. And that difference in paradigm applies to a lot of things, not just eating. It applies to bedtime. It applies to, you know, just all the things that go around how we raise our kids and all the little pieces that we are trying so hard to manage and take control over.  

You know, the more amazing thing is, as your child grows up, she's going to learn that you trust her. Because right now you're saying "I don't trust you, so I have to do it for you. I have to feed you". Right? And the most empowering thing for a child is to know that their parent trusts them.  

Anyway, lots of food for thought, right? Literally. [Laughs] 

[00:19:51] Analiza Wolf:

[00:19:52] Kim Ades:
Thank you so much for sharing your challenge. I don't think you're the only one. I think a lot of parents struggle with their kids. I have five kids, two of them are my own, three of them I inherited and love. And so I grew up, I'm older now, but I had five kids to work with and I got a lot of experience under my belt because of that. They're all in their twenties now.  

But I think that parenting is one of life's greatest challenges and it's the one that we weren't really taught how to step into. You know, we want to grow business, there are mastermind groups, there are courses you take in university, but there's no real parenting course out there. And so we go into it blindly with our past experience under our belt, which comes from our parents, who probably didn't do it perfectly, as well. But it's a great, great discussion. It's one of my favorite discussions.  

So thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thank you for sharing your challenge. And I hope that those of you who are listening got something from it. If you want to learn more about our coaching, please come to and look around, take a look at the other podcasts. And we will see you again next week.

linkedin icon