Two Relational Styles: Holding and Tossing

By Timothy L. Sanford, MA, LPC
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How control and responsibility affect the relationship between you and your teen.

So how does a parent mind his or her own business and still parent?

To answer that question, we’ll look at the Control Grid.

There are four boxes, or quadrants, in our diagram. Each quadrant represents a specific style of relating to or interacting with another person. These are not personality types (which are mostly unchangeable), but ways you — and your teenager — may interact relationally in any given situation.

A person can use any of the four styles. In fact, you may find yourself or your teenager bouncing back and forth among different styles during a single conversation about one topic.

Let’s look at each style.

Style One: Hold

HOLD represents the interacting style that takes the “What I Can Control” category and says, “This is what I take responsibility for.”

hold grid

When you’re a HOLDer, the following terms could be used to accurately describe you:

  • responsible
  • honest; truthful with yourself and others
  • trustworthy; others can count on you to follow through with what you control
  • willing to accept consequences; responding to things you can control, accepting the results of your actions
  • taking ownership of yourself

The HOLDer says, “What’s mine is mine.” When you use this style, you hold onto the things that are legitimately yours to control and are therefore responsible for. You keep what’s yours to keep. You’re responsible for it.

Anybody using this style of relating will have confidence. I’m not talking about self-esteem; I mean a confidence in one’s abilities and character. The more honest you are with yourself and with me, the more confident you’ll be.

This is one of two healthy styles of interacting, whether you’re the teenager or the parent.

Style Two: Toss

TOSSers take the “What I Can Control” category and say, “I don’t take responsibility for it.”

hold and toss grid

If you — or your teenager — is a TOSSer, the following terms could be used to describe you (or him or her):

  • irresponsible
  • liar, denier, blamer; pointing fingers at everybody else for your own actions
  • avoider; not responding to what’s yours
  • untrustworthy
  • shirking consequences any way you can

The TOSSer says, “What’s mine is yours.” When you use this style, you toss off your responsibilities. You try to unload your stuff onto somebody else, for him or her to handle, fix, be responsible for and bear the consequences of.

This is the interactive style we often see in our teenagers. Does the following sound familiar? “It’s not my fault, Mom. You didn’t wake me up in time to study for my test this morning! And besides, it was an awful test anyway. The teacher should never have given it, especially on Monday morning! That’s just stupid.”

But before you think only teenagers are capable of TOSSing, think again.

“Son, you ruined my entire day. Can’t you see you’re making your mother have migraines? She can’t help it she worries about you. If you’d stop being such a jerk, maybe we could have some sanity in this house again.”

It’s easy for parents to be TOSSers as well.

Since confidence grows in direct proportion to honesty, and people using the TOSS style are not being honest, this style will erode confidence. Even if I get away with blaming somebody else and he or she takes the fall for my actions, I won’t gain genuine assurance about my character and abilities.

This is not a healthy style to use. It won’t help anybody.

Taken from Losing Control & Liking It, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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About the Author

Timothy L. Sanford, MA, LPC

Tim Sanford is a licensed professional counselor and the Clinical Director of Counseling Services for Focus on the Family’s counseling department. He is also a pastor, a public speaker and the author of several books, the most recent being Forgive for Real: Six Steps to Forgiving. Tim and his wife Becky have two grown daughters and reside in Colorado.

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