5 Ways to Change When Others Make You Feel Crazy

by Tess on March 27, 2011

Our guest today is Betsy Henry from,
"The Zen Mama's Blog."

Betsys Picture 150x150 5 Ways to Change When Others Make You Feel Crazy

Betsy shares inspiring stories, on family, travel, advice on how to be a loving parent. She is a teacher, mother, wife and also the author of How to Be a Zen Mama and the Zen Mama's Book of Quotes.

Because Betsy's family has traveled extensively together, she's recently decided to begin a new blog Zen Mama Travels.

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"Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all."
                                                                          Carlos Casteneda 

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." 
Mahatma Ghandi 


family volcano shot 198x300 5 Ways to Change When Others Make You Feel CrazyArenal Volcano Costa Rica

Tonight over dinner, our youngest son was telling us how his children would turn out and what he would have them do. We said, "Good luck with that!" He replied, "Don't tell me how to control my children's lives."

We all laughed but I thought how true it is! We’d like to control our children’s lives but that’s not possible. You can’t control people.

You can control the environment. You can control yourself.

A couple of years ago I was going crazy! I wasn’t sure my son was going to graduate from high school. He had a severe case of “senioritis”. He kept telling me, “You’re so pessimistic. Of course I’ll graduate.”

He’d never been much of a student during his high school years. But this was the worst! With the grades he had in his 2nd semester (including swimming) not graduating was a possibility. I was so angry. I was such a nag. I couldn’t sleep at night.

Finally, I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore. I couldn’t change him. I couldn’t make him get the grades he needed. After doing everything I could, I let go. I wrote my book, "How to Be A Zen Mama," during the nights I couldn't sleep!

I finally told him, “Its, alright if you don’t graduate. You can still live at home and attend community college. We’d love to have you!”

I stopped worrying and trying to make him do what I wanted him to do. That’s when he decided to change. 

He pulled everything together. He did graduate. And he loves college! He loves living in the mountain town of Durango, Colorado. He continues to enjoy the music he loves. In fact, he just bought an accordion last summer.

Did he change so much that he had all straight A’s. No. Is he happy? Yes! I think he’s never been happier.

I changed my reaction to him. I see him as a musician, a hard worker, not a school student but a student of life with great common sense.

A friend recently told me a story of how her 5 year old was driving her crazy!

She went to a spa where they practiced mindfulness, took yoga classes and discussed solving their problems in a group.

She explained her problems with her son, how he drove her crazy, and why his personality caused problems in the family. A a man turned to her and said, "I can help you solve your problems.

She eagerly looked at him and he said, “Change yourself and your reaction to him.”

She did change. Over the last year, she has seen a huge improvement in her relationship with her son.

"I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it." ~ Harry S. Truman

You cannot change other people. Humanity has tried to do this through the ages.

Girlfriends and wives have tried to change their men. Parents have tried to control their children. It doesn’t work! It never has. There is always some problem when you try to change and control another person. 

You cannot change your children, but you can change the environment you’re bringing them up in.

Don’t like the video games your children are playing? Get rid of them. Don’t want your young children touching your special possessions? Pack them away until they are older. Don’t like the junk food they eat? Don’t buy it.

We can only change ourselves. When we don’t like something, we need to change our reaction to the people we love.

They are on their own path. They are individuals. When you see them as an individual, you can accept them and get along much better. As an individual, you can teach them that you can transform yourself! 

Read on for tips to be the change you wish to see in your family. 

1. Start by listening

You automatically say, “I respect you” when you listen." 

2. Observe  

Be nonjudgmental. Maybe it’s you who is wrong. Did Albert Einstein’s mother want him to drop out of high school? Were Steve Jobs parents upset when he only finished his Freshman year of college?

3. Let go of expectations

Let go of your expectations and find out what the person in your life wants out of their life. It will be a relief for you, too.

4. Accept what the person in your life wants to do with their life.

5. Help

As a parent, friend or spouse you can be the biggest help. Help the people in your life get where they need to be to accomplish their dreams (not yours).  

Sometimes people think that if you change yourself you are letting go of responsibility or that you’re giving up. Not at all!

You are letting go of your emotional attachment to the outcome and control of a person. 

"Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it." ~ John Maxwell

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    { 39 comments… read them below or add one }

    David | Listen Feel Breathe March 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing this article.

    Often when we are not happy with something or someone we straight away start thinking that the problem is with it or them. However not always do they need to change. If we change our attitude and our responses to the situation to become more positive, then sometimes this positivity is the catalyst for changing the situation for the better for both us and them.
    David | Listen Feel Breathe´s last post…Finding Greatness- free e-bookMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Hi David,
    This is what I’ve been able to do with my kids and it’s been liberating! And they are happier, too!


    Sandra / Always Well Within March 27, 2011 at 3:14 pm


    This is such sage advice! So much frustration comes from trying to change others. Your experience is such a testimony to the way that changes truly happens when we start to let go. And even if it doesn’t, we’ll no longer feel frustrated and that’s a change itself. Thanks for this wisdom.
    Sandra / Always Well Within´s last post…10 Important Ways to Prepare for a Natural DisasterMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy at Zen Mama March 27, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Hi Sandra,
    That is the first thing that happened with me when I let go. I stopped being frustrated. It was wonderful!!
    Thanks for the comment.


    Anna Barlowe March 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Oh boy, I sure know what you mean. I live with two rabbits (one of whom has plans for world domination), two mice, a parrot, and two boyfriends, one of whom happens to be a ghost. Really. I gave up long ago trying to control them – mostly I just clean up after them now.

    Well, not the ghost, he’s actually quite tidy.

    Seriously, though, I do find that people are typically mirrors of our own energy, and a shift in how we behave or feel toward them, even subtle, can often have wide-reaching consequences. This is so powerful that I enjoy playing with my own energy, like a happy little game, just to see what kinds of positive results I can get.

    Meditation really helps too. Thanks for the reminder! :)
    Anna Barlowe´s last post…Out Of My HeadMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    What an interesting household! I’m going to your website to read more!! I like your idea of mirroring our energy. Isn’t that the truth!
    Thanks for the comment!


    Little Lessons Under the Big Sky March 27, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Tess and Betsy!
    How amazing to see your wise words in another blog spot that I love to visit!
    Thank you Tess, for bringing Betsy into your space.

    Betsy, I love what you say here. I have heard some of this, but the new story about your son, his musicianship and the accordian….of course I totally dig!!

    So true about changing ourselves. For years I couldn’t figure out why everyone around me was “acting a certain way.” It took a lot of soul searching and letting go to understand that it wasn’t necessarily how THEY were acting, but how I was REACTING!

    Great list of 5. Invaluable! Thanks for another important reminder about how to live the best life!
    Little Lessons Under the Big Sky´s last post…LEFT OUTMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    It’s always about our reactions, isn’t it? Almost every day my husband and I reevaluate our reactions and decide how to talk with the people in our lives. It can change everything!

    Thanks for the comment! You’re always there to support me! Thanks!


    Joy March 27, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Thank you. How very refreshing! And true! In parenting and in life.
    When my children were toddlers, I was told to expect the “terrible two’s”..they didn’t materialize, because I refused to label it/buy into it as a stage. I also recognize that we all three have unique, individual personalities; I honor theirs, they honor mine. We don’t necessarily understand each other always, but we do give each other space to create and to *be*..


    Betsy March 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Joy,
    I love what you wrote, “we don’t necessarily understand each other always, but we do give each other space to create and to *be*”. So true!
    And the labels like the “terrible twos”…you can call each stage terrible or find it terrific…it’s your attitude!
    Thanks for your support!


    Bryan March 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Betsy! Wow, as a father to three young girls, I pray I can keep this perspective you share. I can even see the writing on the wall now as I find myself falling into that “controlling parent” syndrome. Just a few weeks ago, I actually found myself telling my daughter, “You WANTED to do ballet, and you need to keep the promise you made to your company and your instructor.” (She’s five!) I need to relax. Thanks for the reminder. I needed it.

    Tess, I hope you’re well, friend!
    Bryan´s last post…What Do You Read to Keep Your Mind AwesomeMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Bryan,
    I’m still falling into that trap, even though my kids are 20, 17 and 13 years old. As Professor “Mad Eye” Moody of the Harry Potter series is always saying, “Constant vigilance, Constant vigilance!” (I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and those quotes always come to me…hope you are, too, with three young girls!) Glad to be a reminder!
    Thanks for the comment!


    Dandy March 27, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Betsy & Tess,
    Wonderful post. I’ve been trying to apply these techniqes to my relationship. Once I learned that it was all about my reactions & that I could control my reactions, my relationship became alot more zen like. My partner doesn’t have to be perfect, neither do I, but it is so empowering to know that I don’t have to be bogged down by pettyness. Once I learned this I started to see how great my relationship is! Thanks so much for your wise words! God Bless!


    Betsy March 27, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Dandy,
    It’s amazing that when you let go of your reactions and expectations that things change for the better. Our culture tells us that shouldn’t happen. And then when it’s done for us in return…Wow! Glad it’s working for your relationship!!
    Thanks for the comment!


    Cathy | Treatment Talk March 27, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Enjoyed the post. For so many of us moms, when our children have issues, be they serious or moderate, our immediate urge is to control and solve the problem. It takes courage to let them take responsibility for their lives. Thanks!
    Cathy | Treatment Talk´s last post…Addiction- Michael’s SongMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the post Cathy! It took realizing that my controlling was making matters worse to let go. At first, I had to act like I had let go even though I didn’t feel it on inside. But gradually it really worked. It was a liberating experience.


    Mick / The Mick Morris Musing March 27, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    A reframe is an amazing way to turn a Mountain into a mole hill instead of the other way round…….it all starts with an examination of ourselves.
    Mick / The Mick Morris Musing´s last post…Its not about him- her or themMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Hi Mick,
    I love the idea of turning a mountain into a mole hill! Great way to take the obvious and turn it around!


    Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker March 28, 2011 at 3:42 am

    Great family tips Betsy. I especially like, “You cannot change other people.” So true, I’ve found with my four children that they don’t change until there are ready to change. So, as a parent my job is not to change to them, but to show them how powerful change can be.



    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    We all have heard the saying “Do as I say, Not as I do.” But it just doesn’t work that way. Children will do as their parents do. I love that we as parents (as you comment above) can also show them that change is a good thing not a bad thing.
    Thanks for the comment!


    aplaceforthoughts March 28, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Thank you for this reminder, Betsy. You always give great advice which allows us to get rid of some of the stress in our lives. Look within. React differently. Great points and great post! By the way, yesterday I started my Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and your Book of Quotes book. It was the perfect way to start my day even if it only lasted for 5 minutes. ;)


    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks, Julie, for your continued support! I’m so glad you like the book of quotes. That’s it’s exactly what it’s meant for…a cup of coffe and short contemplation.
    Thanks for the comment!


    Dalia March 28, 2011 at 4:30 am

    So true that we cannot change others. I have found this with many adults. Interesting to hear this when referring to our kids – never really thought about it that way. Thanks for the insight!


    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Dalia,
    Sometimes we forget that children are just little people! If we change the way we talk to them they will feel more in control of their own lives just like we like to be in control of our adult lives.
    Thanks for the comment!


    Serendipity is Sweet March 28, 2011 at 5:56 am

    This is so very true, and common sense really, but somehow against human nature, it seems, lol. I have been through a lot with my oldest son and we are finally in a place where we respect each other and get along swimmingly. One reason we homeschool is to allow our children to grown and explore their passions with more freedom.
    My biggest issue now is trying to get my husband on board with the zen parenting…but I suppose that’s not my responsibility now is it. I have to let that go too.
    Great post!
    Serendipity is Sweet´s last post…Quotes on SpringMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Dear Seredipity,
    I’m so happy to hear that you and your son have come to a good spot. Parenting is a huge process that involves all members of the family! But I agree sometimes you have to let go and let the other parts of your family have their own relationship.
    Thanks so much for coming by and for the comment!


    Bryce Christiansen March 28, 2011 at 9:30 am

    It’s hard to understand how the moment we start trying to influence someone to do what we want them to do, they decide to make the desired changes. It happens a lot.

    I like what you said, “We can change the environment, we can change ourselves”
    Bryce Christiansen´s last post…What Marshamallows Can Teach You About Emotional IntelligenceMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy at Zen Mama March 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Hi Bryce,
    I find that in teaching ( besides writing I’m a preschool teacher) …if we don’t like what our students are doing, we change the environment. Your marshmallow post sounds interesting…I’ll have to stop by!!
    Thanks for the comment!


    Bryce Christiansen March 30, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Thanks Betsy. That’s really neat that you teach preschool. It’s good to have a job where you can help others.

    You probably would like the marshmallow post. It’s about a study that was done on children to see how their self control of waiting to eat a marshmallow would relate to other behaviors up to 30 years later.
    Bryce Christiansen´s last post…Is Your Negativity Destroying the WorkplaceMy ComLuv Profile


    Katie @ Be Extraordinary Today March 28, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I just adored this post! I was laughing to myself because it was almost as if you’d been eavesdropping on some of my sessions. My mantra for clients is always “We can’t control other people, but we can control our reactions to them.” Such a great example of how to use this as a parent. Thank you!


    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I have to remind myself almost daily that it’s my reaction. Sometimes people think that being a Zen Parent means your letting go of responsibility but mostly it’s letting go of you negative reactions.
    Thanks so much for your comment!


    Marci | Liberating Choices March 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Hello Betsy (I think we met during the last AList bootcamp. Great to see you here.)

    Your message is so true. I’ve lived it, and keep living it. I write about this in my blog too. I am a chronic caretaker, and have worked hard at accepting that others will make their path. My way isn’t better, just different.

    When I truly let go of another’s problem, they are able to tackle it. When I tackle it for them, their light bulb seems to go out. The more I try to solve another’s problems, the more they can’t seem to do it for themselves. If we treat others as helpless, they will act more helpless.

    For me, it’s been about managing my worry about others. Realizing that they may not be suffering, I am. If I am fretting, questioning, researching, then I’ve owning it, not them. Great stuff, got me all fired up :)
    Marci | Liberating Choices´s last post…Reduce Conflict with a Do-It-Yourself Leak KitMy ComLuv Profile


    Betsy March 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Marci,
    I do remember meeting you through Alist bloggers. I got a little overwhelmed for a few months…but am starting to get back to the Alist bloggers again. I love what you wrote in your comment: “When I truly let go of another’s problem, they are able to tackle it. When I tackle it for them, their light bulb seems to go out.”
    May I quote you someday on that?
    Thanks for the wonderful comment!


    Marci | Liberating Choices March 29, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Betsy, Of course you can quote me :)

    And, I know about getting overwhelming with too much information to. My speed may not be the same as others, but I’ll get there all the same…
    Marci | Liberating Choices´s last post…Reduce Conflict with a Do-It-Yourself Leak KitMy ComLuv Profile


    Mike Schurko March 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Hey Betsy!

    Thank you for your insight on this topic. It’s amazing the lessons you can learn from life experience : ) I’m glad you were able to come to the conclusion, that it’s you that has power over you, and no one else. You can definitely hold influence, and be an inspiration and a light in other peoples lives, but everyone has to make their own decisions ultimately, and I’m glad its worked out with you and your family!

    Thanks again!

    Please check out my latest podcast, that I upload twice weekly! http://bit.ly/ga0HKH


    Brenda March 28, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Tess, loved this posting! Besty, thank you for sharing your wisdom and joy. Such a lesson in being peaceful on the inside no matter what is going on in the outside. Thank you for reminding us that the only thing we can change is ourselves, our behaviors, our reactions! Great relief…

    Love and light,


    sheila March 29, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Oh. been there. Realized that. :o )
    As the mom of two teen girls and one teen boy I feel this post. The last couple months we’ve been discussing college admittance, prom, etc. OMG. It’s very hard sometimes to let it go, but it IS the best.
    sheila´s last post…The road to success is paved with honeyMy ComLuv Profile


    JennyBean March 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Betsy, I’m going to print this out and frame it. I need to read it every day.

    What extraordinary advice!


    Susie March 31, 2011 at 3:52 pm


    I had to smile when I read your post as I spent most of last week with my 90-year-old father who is experiencing some dementia. Being with him reminded me that he could sense my “controlling” energy and also my “kind, encouraging” energy without uttering a single word. And he responded accordingly. I believe that no matter what the age of our family and friends when we bring certain types of energy ripe with our attachments and expectations, they sense it coming before we move a muscle or make a sound.

    Thank you for reminding us to offer kindness and acceptance to our loved ones.



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