The Importance of a Funnel

By Kim O’Brien

April 3, 2024

Have you ever tried to pour oil into your vehicle without a funnel?  It makes a HUGE mess.  Oil gets everywhere!!!  It is then overwhelming, frustrating, and a lot to clean.  That’s how our children feel when we are parenting outside the funnel.  Joey and Carla often say, “When mom is frustrated, then the child is outside his funnel.”  

When used properly, the funnel is a beautiful tool in our parenting toolbox.  When it isn’t used appropriately, it is frustrating and exasperating for all involved.  Often parents reverse the intended order of the parenting funnel.  The parents start out with lots of freedoms and choices for the child – letting the child make so many decisions day in and day out.  As the child grows, the parents become concerned and worried about choices that are being made so they tighten the funnel.  Where there were once little to no boundaries and the child was making all the choices day in and out, now they are in that narrow part of the funnel and the child is exasperated and frustrated and the behavior is showing how they feel about it.  

When a child is young, they can’t handle lots of freedoms and choices.  They think they can and to many parents, the freedoms and choices seem harmless.  “I’ll color right now.  Next, I’m going to play blocks and then with puzzles.  Oh, I want to go outside now.”  Those may seem harmless on the surface but the precedence being set is that the child is making all the choices and has lots of freedoms.  Gary and Anne Marie say, “A child can handle having a choice when they can handle not having a choice” (red cup/blue cup anyone?)   It is one of my very favorite quotes because it is so true.  A child that has been making choices all day, doesn’t think they have to obey when mom says it’s time for lunch or time to clean up. 

Ideally, the parenting funnel starts with the parent structuring the day and making most, if not all, the decisions.  The child’s obedience, moral maturity, and age, will determine when to move up the funnel with a little more freedom.  Age alone isn’t the determining factor.  The age another child (in or outside your family) gained a freedom isn’t the determining factor.  We all know that each child is different, and where one child can handle the freedom of say getting out of bed when the clock reads 7:30 am, another child at the same age can’t handle that freedom and needs to wait for mom to come get him.  

I’ve been parenting outside of the funnel.  What do I do now?

1.Add Structure/routine to your day – Children thrive on routine.  It doesn’t have to be the exact same every day, but each day should have a general flow to it.  The “anchors” are always the same (rise, meals, snacks, naps/rest, bed)  Think of your day and all you want/need to accomplish each day and then make a plan.  Non-conflict training time.  You definitely want this in your day.  Remember, the best time is when the child is well-rested and fed.  When would this fit best in the day?  For us, it is after breakfast.  What else do I want to happen each day?  Reading aloud – where could I consistently fit this in best in the day?  (it doesn’t just have to be once a day)  Structured play time etc…  The days will change as seasons and weather change.  Maybe you normally go on a walk every morning after non-conflict training time but today it is storming.  No big deal.  You swap around some activities and change the plan.  Remember that the routine should serve you.  You aren’t a slave to it.  

2.First-time obedience – Evaluate how your child is doing in this area.  If you need help with this, Joey and Carla have a great Mom’s Note series on this titled “Understanding First-time Obedience” and “Discipline Issues”.

Structuring Your Child’s Day Part 1 & Part 2 and Understanding the Funnel will be very helpful as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *