Wouldn’t it be nice if we could allow our child the freedom they deserve, without giving up our sense of boundaries? What if I told you that it IS possible?!
If you know you are a naturally controlling person, or are beginning to come to terms with the fact that you might be a little too controlling of your children, first of all let me start by saying a huge well done for realising it and starting to take some action to resolve it! It is often hard to accept our less than perfect personality flaws, and harder still to think that we may be a negative influence on our child.
I have been on your parenting journey myself. Here’s my admission: my name is Heather, and I am a (slowly recovering!) control freak.
I think that as a parent, we absolutely want the best for our children, and we often want to share the benefit of our vast experience with them so they can avoid the challenges that we have had to endure – at least this is how I used to feel, anyway. My controlling ways primarily came from a place of protective instinct, the ‘I know best and I’m telling you that is a bad decision that I don’t want you to make’ type thinking, that I am sure some of you can relate to. Of course there were also other driving factor in my control freak ways (as there will be for you), like wanting things done how and when I say, wanting my children to follow the rules, having high standards for myself and my family, and dare I say it, unconsciously repeating my experiences of how my own parents raised me.
I haven’t always been able to recognise that my actions were negatively affecting my children. I spent more time than I’m proud of in ignorance of the fact that my actions were potentially damaging to my children’s sense of self. I have always considered myself to be a reflective and proactive parent, who tries to better myself for my children, so the realisation that I was causing them unhappiness through my own actions was a truly hard pill to swallow. If you are in this situation right now, then I am sending my love and support to you, because I know how difficult it can be to come to terms with something like this.
But, the bottom line is this: you can’t change what you don’t recognise in yourself, and even the best parent will have something they could improve on. NOBODY is perfect, and the perfect parent simply does not exist!
I am now a great believer in being a ‘good enough’ parent, not a great parent. I now this sounds like strange advice from a parenting advocate, but good enough is just that, good enough. Children learn a lot from that part of you that needs just a little bit of tweaking: that part of you which gets impatient sometimes, is a little controlling, or makes them wait a little too long for the things they need. Getting everything right doesn’t give your child the opportunity to experience challenge and adversity, which actually sets them up to confidently tackle problems in their own lives independently. So, if you’re not perfect, believe that you are perfect for your child.
How do I stop being so controlling of my children?
Even a ‘good enough’ parent can still sometimes benefit from a little bit of support and guidance to become an even better (but still good enough) parent. If you’re finding that you are frequently trying to control your child’s actions and behaviour, read on to find out how you can become less controlling, without actually losing control:
Consider the root cause of why you are controlling your child. What are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to manage their behaviour affectively? Are you trying to ensure their respect? Their compliance? Or is it fear of appearing weak? It is important to understand and reflect on your root issues so you can tackle them and move forwards positively.
Think of alternative ways to handle situations where you feel powerless. Once you understand yourself and your negative habits more deeply, you can start to consider new ways to handle difficult situations. Choose a time where you can reflect deeply, and consider positive solutions, as without proper planning you are likely to revert back to your old habits quickly. For me, breaking deep rooted habits is the hardest part of growing as a person.
Accept that you cannot ever truly control your child. Trying to control your child rarely achieves anything in the long term, apart from defiance and disobedience. You can set all the rules under the sun with the most positive expectations, but your child has their own free will – if they do not get opportunities to exercise this freely from you, you can bet that they will find their own ways to exercise their free will elsewhere.
Educate yourself on child development and positive discipline strategies. I truly believe that educating yourself is a really empowering strategy for positive change. The more you know about how a child typically develops and ways to positively set boundaries, the less you will feel the need to coerce your child’s choices and behaviours. (If you need more support with positive behaviour management techniques , see this other article).
Understand that controlling behaviour does more harm than good. When you try to control another person in some way, despite whatever good place it may come from, you harm your relationship with them. Control leads to feeling of resentment from the person being controlled, and disappointment, frustration and stress in you when your child hasn’t done what you wanted.
Put yourself in their shoes. Think of a time when someone has tried to control your actions in some way – how did it make you feel? Did it make you want to willingly carry out their demand? I think it is important to reflect on how you would feel in the given situation, and if you ever feel your controlling ways returning take the time to ask yourself how your child might be feeling.
Encourage your child’s independence. The more opportunity your child has to be independent, the more likely they will be to follow your rules and boundaries. This is because they will feel empowered to make their own choices independently: this means they will be less likely to cling to power in other ways, and display behaviours that can end up needing to be ‘controlled’ by us adults. Children spend a lot of time feeling like they have no say over their own lives, as they are told what to do by adults for most of the day, so the perception of having choices is important for your child. (For more information on supporting your child to be independent , see this article).
Accept that your child will make mistakes. Your child will make mistakes whether you try to control their lives or not, and that is actually a really good thing for their development. After all, you can’t learn without making mistakes! Trying to manage their life for them and protect them from harm can deprive them of opportunities to learn and grow as a person, which are vital for developing their confidence and independence.
Trust and empower your child to work with you to improve. If your child is old enough, ask their opinions and guidance on how you can become a better parent – and then act on their advice. Admitting to your child you are not perfect can feel like a defeat or like you are weak, but I can promise you this is not how your child will experience it. They will appreciate your honesty, and you will provide them with an excellent opportunity to learn from you. If you trust them and can let go of the reigns enough, ask your child to sensitively let you know when you are being too controlling, in a pre-agreed way.
Build a strong bond with your child. The closer you are with your child, the more you will be able to sense when they are having difficulties with your actions, and the more able they will be to talk to you about problems they might be having. Having a strong bond also acts as a protective factor for the days when you may not have been the best parent- they will have a secure understanding of your love and care for them, despite any troubles you have had. (For more ideas on how to build strong bonds, check out this article on hobbies you can share with your child).
I hope these tips have helped you to reflect on your own unique situation. Parenting is a journey, and sometimes there are bumps in the road, but we will make to where we are meant to be – with a little love and guidance.
Are you a controlling parent? Do you need support? Have you managed to change your ways? Did you have controlling parent? I’d love to hear your stories – you can leave a reply in the box below, or send me a message.
Love, Heather x
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9 thoughts on “Am I a controlling parent?”
Hi Heather, thanks for a lovely article. I’m not a controlling parent, but I know a few. I would love to share your article in our free quarterly magazine, Omni Vision, in the Eye on Education section because parental control is a huge issue when it comes to our kid’s education. Our next issue will go out July 1. You can find our last issue here https://www.theomnifoundation.com/post/omni-vision-issue-4
Hi Leah, thank you for your message. That would be lovely. I’m happy for you to share it, as long as you share my blog info too 🙂 If you need anymore information please do get back in touch!
Thank you so much Heather. I will definitely share all the relevant linking data. Do you prefer to leave out your last name?
You may put my last name if you wish – it is Buddle.
Thank you Heather. I would like to include it. We will link a copy of the magazine when it is published July 1, unless you would like to subscribe and you can receive it automatically when it goes out. We don’t spam. lol
Thank you! I look forward to reading the magazine.
Congratulations on trying to be good enough. That is a struggle for controlling parents. The root cause of control is the same as perfectionism, nonadaptbility; the ability to solve a problem with more than one option. It is founded in your brain wiring formed by inherited traits, and being driven by executive functions. The focus is to let go of your best or worst case scenario and get to alternate solutions(good enough).
If your child pushes back, resist, or refuses she/he inherited the same genes. Teach the child how to problem solve. If interested there is a help sheet in back of book* 13 steps to Getting to Now What. (* The Normal but Not-So-Easy Child)
You’re absolutely right – and perfectionism is something I have also struggled with in my past! Thanks for the information.