Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Crucial Influence

Q&A with a Change Challenger: Carol Ann's goal to help her son

Carol Ann

Change Challenger Carol Ann shares her change plan to improve her relationship with her son as he manages a chronic illness.

Change Anything

What is your change goal?

Facilitating a young adult’s transition to self managed care of a chronic medical condition. Specifically, by 5/1/11, our son will be engaged in a ongoing healthcare with an appropriate provider and he will be accountable for a daily care plan. We will be able to dialogue about his health without defensiveness.

What are your crucial moments?

  • When I see him making poor choices about his self care.
  • When I want to know if he has been monitoring his health.
  • When I disagree with an approach to care he is using.
  • When he asks for my help, that I only help and not probe more.

What are your vital behaviors?

  • Don’t tell myself stories about what happens on a day-to-day basis when I am not there.
  • Always lead my discussions from the heart.
  • Realize that he has emotions about this subject too.
  • Support his progress and help in any way requested—do not overstep those boundaries.
  • Realize he is an adult and ultimately he is responsible.
  • Look for support of transferable skills.
  • Find his carrots in this process and help him build towards his stated rewards.
  • Bite my tongue if I feel discussions getting defensive.
  • Recognize this can be a huge win-win; only go to the mat for the really big stuff.

To what do you attribute your early success?

Focusing on this goal from a more objective and project management like process has allowed me to admit the amount of emotion I have had in my interactions with my son in the past. I have taken a background support role and we have reframed our interactions and discussions. As a result, we have worked together to identify and set goals.

What adjustments are you making to your change plan in the past few weeks to ensure you achieve your goal?

I’ve been doing quite a bit of disease specific research so that I am able to discuss options and articulate current treatment/equipment options.

What is some of the progress you have experienced?

Our son came home last week. In planning for his arrival, I wanted to help him prepare for his upcoming physician’s appointment. I also wanted to have a crucial conversation with him about my intentions and desire to redefine our relationship and my role in managing his illness.

His visit went very well. We dialogued well and I was able to sense when I was being too pushy. If I started to get pushback from him, I refocused and reestablished safety. I did not check everything off the list of things I wanted to discuss with him but I am okay with that. There were a couple of times I even refrained from commenting on things and just kept my mouth shut—figuring it’s better to bite my tongue than regret my words.

We prepared for his physician’s visit which will happen this Thursday. I am not going with him to the appointment (which is admittedly, REALLY hard for me) and that is something we didn’t even discuss because he needs to do this himself and I am very supportive of that. His request was to meet for lunch afterwards and I am already working on myself so that I don’t discuss his appointment without asking permission and even accepting the fact that he may not want to discuss the appointment with me at all. We have lots of time to explore these new ground rules in this “new relationship” and I am committed to taking the time we need to do it right.

Personally, I’m spending some pretty intense time coming to terms with my feelings of failure as a Mom. Not only am I his mother, I’m also an RN and that makes me feel even more guilty that I was not able to figure out how to have impacted his health sooner. While we’re not facing a life-threatening illness, I worry about how our delayed management could affect his long-term health. I’m smart enough to realize that personality, frontal lobe development, and his own needs to come to terms with his illness have all played a big part the struggles he has faced in the past. My head is screwed on pretty straight about the reality of the situation and yet, my heart is still struggling—that too is a process and journey I am willing to take. David Maxfield has recommended the book Motivational Interviewing. I’m stopping at the bookstore on my way home this evening. Thanks David!

Develop Your Crucial Skills

Image for

What's Your Style Under Stress?

Discover your dialogue strengths and weaknesses with this short assessment.

Take Assessment

Image for

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to the newsletter and get our best insights and tips every Wednesday.


Image for

Ask a Question

From stubborn habits to difficult people to monumental changes, we can help.

Ask a Question

3 thoughts on “Q&A with a Change Challenger: Carol Ann's goal to help her son”

  1. Joseph Grenny

    Carol Ann,
    Thank you for sharing this intimate and important change challenge. Your wisdom in approaching it so thoughtfully and candor about the mix of emotions involved moved me. I am sure that there are others who will be instructed and inspired from your sharing. You are a wonderful mother as evidenced by your deep feelings about this. And I know you’ve heard it before – but I’ll say it again: there is no value in “should haves.” Your motives and heart are right and all that matters is here forward.

  2. Jo Spellman

    Carol Ann–wanted you to know of what value your posting was to me. I too have an adult child (girl, 22) with a life-long health condition that requires active management, and the transition of accountability from parents to adult child has been very difficult for us too. You have provided me with some great ideas, and a way to share a positive approach with my husband, without our personal relationship intervening, as he struggles even more than I to let go of control of this issue. Bless you.

  3. Deb

    Carol Ann, thank you for sharing this wonderful information. I’m not sure that it’s really possible to ever let go of the strong urge to take care of our children’s needs. It is indeed so hard to watch them make the mistakes that we know will have an impact on their future. Even though my son doesn’t have specific health issues, your insight and extremely useful examples of your new growth in your relationship helped remind me of the information I learned in Crucial Conversations and even more so, helped me see how to use this in my own relationship with him. Just by your son inviting you to lunch after the appointment shows you are definitely on the right track. Best of luck on your new journey together.

Leave a Reply

Get your copies
The ideas and insights expressed on Crucial Skills hail from five New York Times bestsellers.


Take advantage of our free, award-winning newsletter—delivered straight to your inbox