When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you. ~ Lao Tzu
Posts Tagged ‘respect’
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.
It’s often difficult to gauge the healthiness of our love relationships. This is understandable when we consider how many of us grew up with parents who didn’t model caring behavior or who had little knowledge of positive or productive ways of dealing with problems and the natural conflict that arises when two people commit to live together. Having trouble in a relationship is actually to be expected. And it’s an indicator that something is going right. Yes, it really is! Conflict provides an opportunity to become aware of an area of need in our own personal growth.
Our intuition tells us that something is not right in our relationships. Keep in mind that blaming (oneself or one’s partner) serves no purpose and actually prevents us from moving forward. We may have fallen into patterns of disconnecting from one another when conflict arises by using silence, criticism or anger. If we feel sad more often than happy with our significant other, this is a sure sign that something is amiss, and we may need support looking at the relationship with the help of an objective party.
Below are some elements operating in healthy romantic relationships. I invite you to reflect on your relationship and consider whether these principles are characteristic, most of the time, of your interactions with your mate. If you feel these traits don’t describe the way you and your partner relate, you may want to discuss your thoughts and feelings, either with your partner or with a therapist.
Kindness – Do you and your partner treat one another in a gentle and considerate manner?
Trust – Do you and your partner feel that you can be vulnerable with one another and speak honestly about your feelings for each other and the relationship? Do you feel you “have one another’s backs” when difficult situations arise?
Respect – Do you and your partner feel equally important and valued in the relationship? When either of you expresses the need for a limit or boundary, is it respected?
Safety – Does it feel safe for you and your partner to experience conflict with one another and disagree?
Sexuality – Do you and your partner enjoy being intimate with one another and able to communicate your preferences or difficulties around sexual relations?
Fun – Do you and your partner enjoy your time together and find things to laugh about? Are there fun activities you share that bring you closer and make you laugh at one another and together?
Differentiation – Do you and your partner maintain a healthy sense of individuality and the ability to continue activities and engage in friendships that were meaningful before the relationship began?
Keep in mind that the principles above can never be operating in every moment of a relationship. The sense of connectedness and belonging a romantic relationship brings us is extremely powerful, and we are going to have difficulty maintaining a connection all the time. While love is the most profound emotion we experience as human beings, our ability to create and sustain a healthy relationship is something almost all of us need to learn. As difficulty arises, embrace this challenge and know it provides an opportunity to take responsibility and figure out where we may need to do some work on ourselves.