Blended Families National Step Family Day Emily Bouchard

Taming Your Gremlin
for Parents
- Jane Massengill -

Our "Ask the Experts" Interviewee from The Gremlin Taming Institute

Taming Your Gremlin for Parents

Parenting is one of the toughest jobs most people are unprepared for and even the most competent and capable parents find themselves with challenging situations that undermine their self-confidence; temper tantrums, bedtime blues and peer pressure come to mind.  In blended families, the challenges can be multiplied many times over, especially when there are conflicting parenting styles, transitioning, step sibling rivalry, issues with an ex spouse, and financial conflicts. A negative inner voice may add to ongoing uncertainty and stress and prevent you from being the best parent you know you can be. 

You can either chose to listen and be controlled by the sabotaging chatter that Jane Massengill calls your Gremlin, or you can learn about Taming Your Gremlin  and use new skills and techniques that help to quiet that negative, self-defeating  inner dialogue.

Jane Massengill is the Director of the Gremlin Taming Institute and an expert on the Gremlin Taming Method developed 30 years ago by the creative and insightful Rick Carson, and described in his best selling book and CD, Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way.

Jane brings practical and wide-ranging experience to her tele-classes and presentations to parents. She believes that you really get to know yourself when you become a parent or a stepparent, and not always in the best way; kids can arouse all kinds of emotions that challenge how you show up as a parent.  Jane believes that The Gremlin Taming Method is a roadmap for becoming the best parent you can be because it is an effective way of constantly checking in with yourself so you feel a sense of control and self-confidence in the face of the personal bully that is your Gremlin. 

Gremlins can interfere with your “response ability” which she defines as the freedom to react and respond to your world the way you would like. Your Gremlin constantly convinces you that you’re not capable, you’re doing things wrong, and even if you try to be the best parent you want to be, you’re going to fail. Ultimately, your Gremlin will trap you into settling for predictable and unsatisfying responses by using “should” “must”, and “ought to” commands that control you and diminish your sense of self.

Jane describes three important steps to get you started on Taming Your Gremlin: 

  1. Simply Notice how you present as a parent and whether this reflects who you are naturally or whether you are functioning out of habit or in response to the demands of others. As a step parent, you may be characterized by other people’s beliefs and hang ups.
  2. Play with Options once you have noticed something that upsets or disturbs you. Consider the range of possibilities for what you want to do with what you just noticed. The bottom line is that by looking at options, you get to choose, rather than doing what the badgering Gremlin is telling you. You realize that you are responsible for what you create from whatever is going on around you.
  3. Being in Process is practicing 1 and 2 in an intentional, concerted activity that you practice every day.

Taming Your Gremlin is a powerful tool to help parents struggling with insecurities of parenting. An added benefit is that, as parents practice the strategies, they can teach their kids and give them an invaluable skill that will instill awareness, self-confidence, and their ability to control how they react to the world around them.  

See Jane’s tips for parents helping their kids tame their gremlins

. Gremlin-Taming® Tips for Parents

By Jane Massengill, LCSW/ MCC

As a parent or teacher, you are the best role model of gremlin-taming for your children.  Personally integrating the concepts from this workshop into your life and your home are essential to your child’s success.  Here are a few tips to help you:

1. Before you introduce gremlin taming to your child, practice taming your own gremlin. Name it, draw it, put it on a leash and take it for a walk.  Get to know your gremlin by simply noticing it.  You may want to notice the intimate conversations your gremlin wants to have with you.  Notice your habits of how you have been responding to these conversations up to this point.

2.     Read Taming Your Gremlin by Richard Carson.  Re-read it, again and again.  I have read it numerous times and each time I learn something new.  I consider myself well versed in this topic, and yet, the learning never stops. Try listening to the tape series, Taming Your Gremlin:  The Art of Graceful Change. You will pick up ideas you may have bypassed when reading the book.

3.     Kids respond differently to their understanding of the gremlin depending on their age.  When we first taught our son Stuart, he was 6 years old.  He wasn’t all that interested in this gremlin stuff, in comparison to our older son Max, who was 8.  Max was completely intrigued.  At the other end of the scale, when I taught a 14-year-old group of girls about the idea, they said they wanted the “adult version” of the concept!  So it just depends on the child.  Watch your son or daughter and their responses as you talk about it.  Most likely, as the word “gremlin” becomes part of your vocabulary, they will begin sharing their own taming stories.

4.     Point out when your own gremlin gives you a hard time.  YYes, it will feel a little vulnerable but it will also help your child feel safe in telling you about his or her gremlin. I can’t say it too often: the more you model gremlin taming for your kids, the better understanding they will have of it for themselves.

5.     Catching, taming, noticing…. these are some of the gentle actions involved in going after gremlins.  Don’t encourage killing, hurting, or anything harsh.  Gremlin taming is a gentle process, not a torture chamber.  Kids naturally want to be the victors.  Show them how victorious they can be without inflicting pain. Invite them to think of creative things to do with their gremlin using humor and playfulness.  The learning will translate into dealing with difficult peer issues down the road.

  ©2004 Jane Massengill

Action Step

Being a parent is a tough job, much more with blended families. But being able to tame the Gremlins in parents will allow them to be the best parent they can be, they will be in control of their reactions and responses to the world they are in.

When parents are able to tame their Gremlins, the added benefit is that they are also able to share the invaluable skill to their children.


To become a skilled Gremlin Tamer, there is no substitute for reading Rick Carson’s insightful book, and for parents there is no more effective way to teach and encourage your child in Gremlin Taming than to listen to Jane’s tele classes. However, a great alternative to learn more about the techniques and positive effects of Gremlin Taming for Kids is to join our conversation with Jane on our Ask the Expert segment on July 31.

Also,visit Gremlin Taming for Kids where you can draw your Gremlin, pick up some Gremlin Taming Tips and share stories about how you are taming your Gremlin.

A tried and true Gremlin-buster is having a Blended Family coaching session with one of our expert coaches. We can help you identify the Gremlin of the moment and help you tame it in an expedient, effective way.


Wishing you and your blended family all the best,

Emily Bouchard, founder,


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