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'I tried the "Let Them Theory" on my kids... Here's what happened.'

It’s a wintry Sunday evening when I find myself at the local league’s club. 

The equipment – portable stage, speakers, amps, microphones, a keyboard and a small drum kit – is all assembled, ready to be played. I notice that I’m nervous. A nauseousness has settled in my tummy and I’m fidgety, glancing around the room, shifting on my feet, not sure what to do with my hands. I tell myself to breathe, that everything is going to be okay, despite the fact that another louder, panicked voice is also screaming: But what if it’s not? 

I’m not performing today. I don’t even play a musical instrument. I’m here in the audience watching my nine-year-old take a seat behind the drum kit to do her first public solo performance. Outwardly, I’ve demonstrated nothing but unbridled enthusiasm and confidence in her abilities. However, as I watch more people file in, I’m quietly stressed AF on her behalf and seriously regretting that I chose this week, of all the weeks, to let her do what she wants. 

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In the lead-up to tonight, I bit my tongue when she turned down my gentle suggestions of “a bit more practice”. I nodded and said “alright, okay” when she sternly told me not to email her teacher for “a few more details”. 


I’ve let her manage this, the way she wanted to. And now, as I sit and wait, deep in mental discomfort, I find myself cursing Mel freakin’ Robbins and the ‘Let Them Theory’ that's currently doing the rounds on the internet. 

What is the 'Let Them Theory'?

The ‘Let Them Theory’ is a life hack from New York Times bestselling author, podcaster and motivational speaker, Mel Robbins. According to Robbins, the theory is about letting people in your life “do whatever it is that they want to do”, which creates “more emotional peace for you and a better relationship with the people in your life". 

Basically, the idea is that you stop trying to control other people when you don’t need to and save yourself a whole lot of stress in the process.

Robbins recently shared the ‘Let Them Theory’ on her Instagram and it quickly went viral, gaining 15 million views and 11K comments in a matter of days. Currently, it has more than 13 million views on TikTok. 

Discussing the theory on her podcast, Robbins said, “I don’t think any of us are aware of just how much energy and effort and time we waste on sh*t that we’re trying to control.”  

Struggling with controlling behaviour, or controlling thoughts, is something we’re all occasionally guilty of, and Robbins puts this down to a few key reasons:

  • It’s a form of anxiety. This type of control often shows up in the guise of looking out for somebody’s best interests e.g. don’t forget your umbrella. For the recipient though, it can feel a lot like being micromanaged. 

  • It’s easier to focus on other people. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking that we’ll feel more in control if we can control those around us. This is, of course, futile because the only person you can actually control is yourself.

  • It distracts us from what we don’t want to deal with. Often we jump into obsessive/control mode when we feel uncomfortable with the uncertainty of a situation. Instead of sitting with these emotions, we ramp up the control, thinking it will alleviate our discomfort. 

How do you use the ‘Let Them Theory’?

According to Robbins, there are three main ways to use the ‘Let Them Theory’.

  • Detachment: “Detach yourself from the emotional or mental struggle that you get yourself into when you’re thinking about what other people are doing or how things should be going,” says Robbins.

  • Let them fail: As Robbins says, “You’ve got to give people room to grow, learn and take personal responsibility… Every time you rescue someone, you rob them of the opportunity to grow… and you make the person a little weaker and more dependent on you.”

  • Let them be themselves: “When you give someone the freedom to be themselves… you see who they really are… and then you can make a great choice about who you really are and what you really need,” says Robbins.

There are three caveats to the ‘Let Them Theory’:

  1. If somebody’s doing something dangerous or they’re discriminating against you (or someone else), do not let them do that. For example, when you see your friend about to drive after drinking or you see someone being harassed or discriminated against.

  2. When you need to ask for something or advocate for your own rights, like when negotiating a salary.

  3. If somebody is continuously crossing your boundaries, don’t let them do that. For instance, boundaries you need to set as a parent with your child. 

The ‘Let Them Theory’ can be applied to all manner of relationships and situations. 

However, on the parent/child dynamic specifically, Robbins elaborates further, adding: “I realise that you just can’t let your kids blow off school. You can’t let them not do their homework or not eat their vegetables. Your job as a parent is to create boundaries, so keep doing it. Use the ‘Let Them Theory’ to put up the guardrails when it’s important, but to let them down and to give your kid space when they need space.”

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So, what did I let them do?

With my curiosity piqued, I decided to try the ‘Let Them Theory’ on my kids for a week. Keeping in mind that my kids are nine, seven and four, it wasn’t as if I was about to let them do every little thing that came to mind, because a) I didn’t want to end up in jail, b) boundaries, and c) that’s not what this is about. 

Where I let them go further than usual was in their decision-making, risky play and personal accountability – areas I usually find myself intervening, encouraged by my anxiety-induced what-could-go-wrong worries.

For example, I let them squabble endlessly with each other without playing referee. I let them wear wildly inappropriate clothing for the weather. I let them forget their drink bottles when normally I would race back to school to drop them off (yes, I’m that parent). 


I let one of them throw a monstrous tantrum when they were given a meal they’d eaten plenty of times before. Then, I let them come to the table fifteen minutes later and eat everything on their plate without saying a word. I let another one of them teeter on the edge of two armchairs, legs splaying, balance waning, and resisted every urge to tell them to “be careful” or “get down”. Then I let him fall backwards off said armchairs onto a pile of cushions below, get up and go off on his merry way. No harm, no foul. And I didn’t stop there.

I applied the ‘Let Them Theory’ to other people in my life as well. I invited a close friend on a trip I thought they’d get a lot out of and they very politely declined. Instead of coming up with a counter-argument to convince them of all the reasons they should reconsider, I just let them say no and dropped it.

What did I learn from the ‘Let Them Theory’? 

As a self-confessed helicopter parent, I was a little dubious about just how much I could/would/should let my kids do. Micromanaging their every move has unconsciously become my default mode, and it’s absolutely exhausting. For me, but as I’ve also realised this past week, for my kids as well. The constant instructions, reminders, and reprimands take it out of all of us. They feel suffocated; I feel frustrated. Plus, as I’ve recently discovered, it doesn't really change the outcome all that much either. They’re still going to argue with each other when I tell them not to, still not going to be careful with their drinks at the dinner table when they’ve been told to. 


Not to say that letting go is easy. It’s really not, at least not for me, but it is very liberating. Turns out, loosening your grip on life, even just a little, has some pretty big returns. All that energy that you put into controlling other people’s behaviour, you give back to yourself. It’s so freeing to not feel responsible for everything everyone does. Plus, they start remembering their drink bottles pretty quickly once you let them forget.

Back at the league’s club, as I watch my daughter do a mini sound check, it occurs to me that my anxiety has ratcheted my inner control freak right up. I’m clutching at lost opportunities of intervention that may have impacted what’s about to happen next. Noticing this, another calmer voice responds to my catastrophising thoughts around everything going wrong: Let it. You can’t control any of it, anyway. My shoulders instantly relax and I feel about ten kilos lighter. 

I give my little girl a thumbs up; she gives me a tiny grin back. She then takes a deep breath and begins. And she kills it. No extra practice required. 

Emily McGrorey is a full-time reader, part-time procrastinator, freelance writer, casual Pilates student, and aspiring author. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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