Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hard Places and Feelings: Control

What it looks like?

Control doesn't seem like a "feeling" but I feel it is.  The need to be in control seeps into many different facets of our children's lives.  It stems from living a life where bad things happened that they couldn't control.  I find that for my kids I can link bossiness, defiance, lying/cheating, and disrespect (this may be for people or things) to the need to control.  I've heard other parents talk about food and cleanliness as issues that come with control.

Let me give you examples of how this can manifest itself in each behavior and explain how control takes over the issue:

Bossiness: One of my kiddos is extra bossy, to the point of controlling. It's not just a child trying to tell their siblings what to do.  It is a need to be in control of their siblings (or of the parents-if allowed). It stems from a lack of trust in former caregivers.  These kids are often left in charge of younger siblings or themselves so they tend to develope "take charge" personalities to the point of being unhealthy.  Within my own children's birth sibling relationships (and I've heard other parents say the same thing) we often see one child dominate another to point of overstepping a parents authority.

Defiance: A parent's request to have a child complete a certian task can be immediately met with an "I don't think so" attitude from the child.  It's almost a knee jerk reaction for the child.  They so need to be in control that their defences are constantly up.

Lying/Cheating:  This is a behavior in and of it's self but a need to control every aspect of their world can send a child down a very bad path.  For one of my kiddos they need to be so in control of the outcome of a game that they must cheat to win.  It's gotten to the point that this child's grandparents don't even enjoy playing games with them. 

Disrespect:  This can be shown in how they treat others (typically through the things listed above).  However, we also see it in how they treat their things.  Some parents see a child who holds on to their things way to tightly as a need to control.  My children show a lack of respect for things.  It's easier to pretend you don't care about something because it won't hurt as bad when you loose it.

How to uncover control?

For us, this is pretty simple to do in our children.  It's taking typical kid behavior (like bossiness) to the extreme as a protection measure.

How does this relate to me?

Everybody has some level for a need to control their lives.  Nobody likes to feel out of control.  As a parent this means that I need to figure out how to share control with my children.  That can be very hard to do.  For me, it has been a learning curve.  I always thought that if I told my child to do something, they had better do it.  I'm learning the my children need two things: 1. LOTS of choices in daily life, 2. The ability to compromise.

Choices.  My kids do so much better with choices.  I've learned through Karyn Purvis that when a child is given choices it needs to be two positive choices that you are ok living with.  In other words a choice between obeying or getting a consequecing is NOT a good choice.  We have found we can give our kids lots of choices in daily life: a blue shirt or orange, cereal or toast, milk or water, an apple or an orange.  The more choices we give the more our kids feel in control of their lives.

Compromises.  This was a hard parenting change we made (again Karyn Purvis) but one of the best to affect behavior.  Our kids know that if they don't like a choice they can ask for a compromise if they do it with respect.  Sometimes we say no but we try to compromise when we can.  (An example: I ask a child to put down a toy and come to dinner.  A compromise they could ask for...or I could offer if we see a resistance to that they can play for three more minutes.  After three minutes they must get up with a good attitude, put them toy away, and come to dinner.)

When we learn to let go of our control in little areas and let our children have a bit of control, our children learn to share control in bigger areas.  They learn to trust us with those items and the battle grounds become fewer.

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