Posts Tagged ‘control’

Attention Parents: Are You a Control Freak?

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

not-really-a-control-freak

I have to admit it: I am a recovering control freak.

Of course there are degrees of this freakiness but if one is anywhere on the continuum, it’s time to take a hard look at your behavior, as I did, and understand how it might be hurting rather than helping the child or teenager you love with all your heart. As a provider of counseling and psychotherapy, and especially as a mother, I wrestled for a long time trying to define the word “control” and examine my parenting style to see if it characterized my interactions with my children. Once I began to really understand the devious nature of control, I identified it and went to work on understanding its origin and making changes to my parenting approach.

Controlling can take many forms and most of us shudder at the idea that we would embody this characteristic. We may justify our actions by saying, “but I would do anything for my child,” “I want to make sure he doesn’t get into trouble, “I want her to be more responsible.” Some examples of control may include:

– Offering an abundance of unsolicited “advice” that we think is helpful. This often entails phrases, such as, “you need to …” and “you should …”
– Reminding our children repeatedly to do their homework, chores, tidy their room, eat, not eat, etc.
– Modeling high standards of achievement with the expectation that our kids will attain those standards
– Expecting our children to conform to our cultural notion of politeness, maturity, style of dress
– Having ideas of what is “the right way” to do something—and imposing that on our child
– Expecting our children to suppress their emotion and “stop making a big deal about it,” “get over it,” or “grow up”
– Predominantly praising our children for things that are meaningful to us, e.g. good grades, winning the competition, making the swim team

The paradox here is that parents who use a lot of control tactics are most often responding to an inner sense of anxiety or powerlessness they experienced as children. For example, if a woman, in her own childhood, was praised only when she came home with good grades or was first on the track team, it may be that she learned (consciously or unconsciously) to equate love and acceptance with accomplishment. Thus, getting a child to behave in a certain way may alleviate anxiety or powerlessness parents experienced in their own childhoods—bringing peace of mind, a sense of order and predictability, and often the external recognition they craved as children.

The problem with control is in the insidious messages it sends to a child or young adult: I don’t believe you can be responsible for yourself; you don’t make wise choices; you need me to take care of you. The irony is that our child learns the very powerlessness we ourselves experienced as children, and by which we are still bound.

Isn’t control synonymous with parenting?
The answer is, ‘no.” A parent’s role is to guide, develop, and educate a child so he or she transitions into an adult who is capable of fully functioning in the world and holds him/herself accountable for his/her choices. This is no simple feat, to be sure, and the subject has been worthy of many books. Establishing firm structure, while respecting, inviting, validating, and gently challenging our children are the keys to healthy parenting, as is admitting mistakes. Letting go of control may mean allowing your child to mess things up or fail, both of which, paradoxically, will stand him/her in good stead on the road of life.

If you feel what you’ve read so far resonates for you as a parent, don’t feel hopeless, helpless, or that you have failed your child. It’s never too late to change the patterns of our relating with those we love. Reflect on your own childhood, attempt to identify aspects of controlling behavior, and consider if counseling may be helpful.

Recommended reading on parenting: The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. By John Gottman, Ph.D.

To read about parenting teenagers, specifically, please see my blog, titled: A Few Tips for Surviving Teenage Turbulence.

What Is Choice Theory?

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog, Choice Theory, Custom_Home_page, Therapy

Choice Theory, developed by Dr. William Glasser, is the explanation of human behavior based on internal motivation. As Dr. Glasser explains in the most recent of his widely read books, Choice Theory, all of our behavior is chosen as we continually attempt to meet one or more of the five basic needs that are part of our genetic structure.

Choice Theory posits that behavior is central to our existence and is driven by five genetically driven needs, similar to those of Abraham Maslow. They are: Survival; Love and Belonging; Power; Freedom; and Fun.

An understanding of these needs as well as the other major components of Choice Theory (the Basic Needs, the Quality World, the Perceived World, the Comparing Place, and the Total Behavior System) can help us build and maintain better relationships with the important people in our lives and lead happier, more satisfying lives.

Choice Theory has been successfully implemented, internationally, in schools, organizations and treatment programs. In the therapeutic setting, it aligns with a cognitive behavioral approach that many clients who are motivated to change find empowering.

The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory

  1. The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.
  2. All we can give another person is information.
  3. All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.
  4. The problem relationship is always part of our present life.
  5. What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.
  6. We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.
  7. All we do is behave.
  8. All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology
  9. All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.
  10. All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

Dr. William Glasser, an internationally recognized psychiatrist, is the creator of Reality Therapy and the theory that undergirds it, Choice Theory. This therapeutic approach is used world wide in schools, businesses, and the counseling and therapy environments. More information about this approach is available at http://wglasser.com/the-glasser-approach