13 August 2008

10 tips for the reforming parenting control freak.

I have borrowed this post from the lovely Arun at The Parenting Pit. He posted this yesterday and oh boy can I just say it is very timely. Hope others can get something out of it too :)

I admit it. I am still a reforming parenting control freak.

You wouldn’t know it to chat to me. Or by the fact I am into unschooling and trusting my children. But in all honesty it is a constant effort not to “do things for them”, or more often “to tell them or make them do it the ‘right’ way.”

control.jpgEmbracing trust and letting go of control is a conscious decision I make several times a day… at dinner its more like several times a second!

To follow are some of the tips and techniques I’ve found useful in my own journey, I hope that it might assist all you other reforming parenting control freaks out there!


This method is great for wild play or climbing. Rather than shouting “be careful or you’ll fall and break your neck” and probably make them fall and break their neck in the process, I have found it sometimes better just not to watch. If I find myself bursting to say something I try to limit it to “do you feel safe doing that?”.


Whether watching your child build a sandcastle or make a birthday card for your partner, sometimes the best advice is to do your own as well. Creating one yourself allows you to let go of your child’s creation. You can still help but come in on a very defined task of your child’s choosing, think of yourself as an “outside (and subordinate) contractor” rather than an equal partner in their project… after all you’ve got your own!


Its a powerful exercise to spend a day trying to ask questions and not telling at all. Questions can be used for evil as well as goodness since they can have big agendas behind them (”are you going to wear that?” or “do you think that’s appropriate?”). So even better is to try to ask questions that you do not know the answer too. If done with an openess it can shift you into a spirit of being playful and curious which is much more fun than being anal and controlling.


Every time something is pushing your parenting buttons and you want to try to control something/ change someone/ make something right etc etc.. A useful shift is to focus on yourself. To ask “how can I make an internal shift to better deal with this situation?” Basically its trying to accept the behavior of your child and focusing on your own behaviour/ modelling (something you do have some control over).

Another aspect to this is if you really, really need to comment, doing it from your perspective, eg. “I find that…” rather than “you should…”. Commenting and then being open to what happens (or does not happen) next is quite an art.


In the midst of a “situation” it can be useful to get perspective by remembering what your child was like one year ago. Even two years ago. You might even carry some pictures to make the point to yourself. Impermanence and change are universal characteristics but can be most obvious in children. Seeing how they are changing and growing might remind you that this moment will never, ever come again. That in turn might assist you accepting it joyfully for what it is right now.


Know your imperfections and embrace them. Get rid of the undies and cape (ie any attempt to be a super hero) instead just be you. Self acceptance of yourself including your faults will generally help to accept others as they are.


Telling someone the answer is not nearly as effective as them experiencing it. So have confidence to give your children the space to fall, fail and whatever as they experience and engage with life.


Try to let go of the perfect picture or end result by really focusing all your attention into what is happening right in front of you. If your child has just smothered cream over your kitchen table try to let go of the image of a “pristine table” in your head and ask “what can we do with this creamy table?”. Perhaps you might end up drawing in it before cleaning together? Perhaps drive toys cars over it? The possibilities are endless and a better way to occupy your mind than worrying about what “should” be happening.


If you still feel that “controlling beast” in you just waiting to rear its ugly head, then perhaps one strategy might be directing it more effectively. Take the pressure away from your kids and choose something definable to assert your control over. It might be your desk, your sock draw, for me it was the (unfortunate) dog we got. Something to let your controlling nature out where it wont do damage to your children or partner while you continue to work on getting rid of it altogether.


At those really trying times, imagine what would be your response if this was the last day you spent with your child. How would that affect your level of compassion, understanding and acceptance. Would it really be so important that they behaved in the way you want? Parenting like there is no tomorrow is a great final line when all else fails.

I’ll let you into a well kept secret on this one – if you do parent like there is no tomorrow, one day you will be right! So enjoy the day while its yours and your child to share. Let go and trust!


That’s some of the approaches Ive used… please feel free to comment and add your own below.


Keely said...

Thanks for that post, it's really good timing for me to read that and remind myself of a lot of these things I already knew and also learn new ways. I really needed that!

belinda said...

All I can say is if I ever become a parent...This list is going to be engraved on the fridge.

Allowing them to be themselves and learn from their own mistakes, within reason is so important to do and so hard to achieve.

Kind Regards

HPD said...

Love number 6!

I always tell friends who are pregant that I have two pieces of advice.

1. Easy parents make easy kids.

2. We don't have a manual. Ignore all advice!

Angry African