As a Parent Coach, I get more questions on – how to parent a strong-willed / controlling child than anything else! There is probably no parent out there who has not had a run in with control in some way shape or form, but for some, the levels of control are over-whelming.
So, how do you parent a strong-willed, controlling child?
In order to understand the patterns of control, we have to dig a little deeper and understand why they might be there.
With the best of intentions, because we all want what is best for our child, we turn to control under the clever disguise of: “my child need’s me to do it”, “this is best for my child”, “this will protect my child”, “this makes it easier for my child”. Control wears many hats… We do it to avoid discomfort for ourselves and for our child and we do it because we fear what might happen if we don’t.
“If I don’t do his laces up for him, we are going to be late…”
“If I don’t do his homework for him, he will never finish it…”
“If I don’t force him to practice his piano he will fail his exam…”
“If I don’t expose him to lots of new things he will never be successful…”
“If I don’t put him into extra Math, he will never get the A. If he doesn’t get the A, he won’t get into a GOOD college…”
“If I don’t nag, he will never remember…”
And so it goes on.
How might this play out?
In the short term, when we control things for our children things seem okay, but with over-control, the cracks will appear. Long term, this is not good. In fact, long-term, the trappings of unhealthy control might cause our children to fail, not develop a strong sense of self, self-reliance, resilience because they have been robbed of the opportunity of doing things for themselves in order to develop those skills. Because someone else has always been in control of them.
Step 1: Understanding What Drives The Need To Control
- How do you feel when you are being controlled by someone else?
- How do you feel when you are not in control?
- Why do you feel the need to control?
- What is it that you are scared of?
It is disconcerting for anyone to feel that they are not in control of themselves and that someone else controls their every move. On the flip side, as the controller, the pressure of feeling like you have to control everything places you under extraordinary amounts of stress because of your fear of what might happen if you don’t.
Ask yourself: What does your child need?
Step 2: Find The Antidote To Control
We have to look for the antidote to our control. What does this look like?
If we can see control as a tight grip that we have on things in order to avoid the fear of what might happen if we don’t hold on tight, then it is easier to see that the antidote to this is to release it, to loosen our grip on it and eventually be able to let it go.
Until we can let go of unhealthy patterns of control, our kids will continue to either fight us in an attempt to regain control or question themselves and their worth for not having enough control. We have to let go of stale patterns, old scripts and present fears that do not serve us or our children well.
To do this, we have to start by “changing” our minds. Literally. We have to shift our minds, change the gear that we drive in and instead of driving from control, fear, worry, doubt and lack drive from trust, love and our essence.
The first thing to do when trying to change things is to look within:
- What is going on for you?
- Why do you think you turn to control as much as you do?
- Can you identify your patterns of control?
Your thoughts create your feelings and your feelings create your actions: If your thoughts are coming from fear, worry and doubt, this will show up as feelings of anxiety and when you are scared, what do you do? You hold on tighter and tighten your grip.
Hopefully, you can now see this cycle of control and the effects that it might have on you and your relationship with your child.
Step 3: Breaking The Toxic Cycles Of Control
- What if you were to channel your energy into taking control of yourself rather than trying to control your controlling child?
- How would that look?
- What if you could look to connecting to your child’s deepest needs rather than controlling them?
The answer lies in taking charge of ourselves, owning our part to play in it and taking the steps required to control ourselves. We can control the gear from which our minds are operating and find a way to stop ourselves from being triggered by our fear of not being in control. We have to consciously change gear. Control the words we choose. Control ourselves to make the choice to connect to our essence and trust ourselves and our children that it will be alright to let go.
I believe that turning the spotlight onto ourselves is the most positive way to bring about change. We cannot really change someone else. Trying to “fix” our child, implies that they are broken. I do not believe any child is broken. Their “controlling” behaviour is simply their means of communication which is reflective of our behaviour. By “fixing” ourselves and our response to them, we can have a far bigger and more positive impact on our children’s behaviour.
We have to take responsibility for our part to play and be curious as to how we might, in fact, be impacting our children’s behaviour.
There is hardly a parent out there who doesn’t struggle with this. You are not alone. I struggle with it. We all do. I think we would be lying if we didn’t. Whatever the age and stage of your child, toddler to teen it’s never too late to start letting go of unhealthy controlling patterns with your them and take control of yourself.
Is it easy? No.
Is it worth it? Every time.
Letting go is so liberating. Taking control of yourself and releasing and relinquishing un-healthy control is one of THE most powerful feelings in the world and I encourage you to try it.
If you have a strong-willed and controlling child and struggle with letting go of control and need some help, don’t forget to join my Parenting Tribe and get your FREE Parenting Strengths Finder (scroll up and fill in your details in the box in the sidebar). It’s a great place to start. After that, you will receive weekly tips and parenting advice to help you end your struggles.
What aspect of control do you find the most challenging? Do let me know, I’m always happy to chat!
If this blog post helped you, HERE is an earlier post also on the subject of control. In it, I offer practical tips as to how to help you end the control struggle!
And if you are really eager to start implementing some strategies on managing control, HERE is something else that might help you on your journey. It’s titled: What All Parents Need To Know About Handling Unacceptable Behaviour!