Allow your kids to run the show. For one day, trade places and tell them that they are the parents and you are their children. They get to make all the decisions for the household. You can make requests, but the final choices are up to them.

If your six-year-old wants to go food shopping at 10:30 P.M., then get in the car and take off. If your toddler doesn't want to take a nap today, then she stays up because she is in charge. If your teenager wants to take $150 out of his savings account to buy a new bicycle, then that is his prerogative.

You might want to alert your kids when you're planning this day so they — and you — can be prepared for it. You have to go along with whatever they come up with as long as no one will be endangered by their suggestions. After all, skydiving might not be a great idea. But anything short of that is to be carried out with gusto and enthusiasm, just the way you like them to be on all other days.

Remember to be aware during the day of your inner protests and need for control, but try to keep these to yourself and act as if you are perfectly happy to watch Thomas the Train tapes all day, or spend hours transplanting flowers in your garden, or eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. More important, how does it feel to give up control, to not be in charge, to feel what your kids must feel like most of the time? Do you like it, or does it make you anxious and uncomfortable?

Trading roles with someone close to you, especially a family member, is an unusual way of gaining a different perspective on your own life, one that will allow you to be more compassionate every day.

Alan Epstein