Am I Controlling or Influencing My Child?

When we raise our kids to be self-sufficient and healthy adults, we can be their role models for behavior. They might look to us to get their needs met and set an example for dealing with life’s natural ups and downs. One of the important aspects of Dr. Charles Fay’s ideas presented in “Love and Logicduring a talk with Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey is that we understand the difference between control and influence. 

Control and Power Struggles

When we try to control our kids’ behaviors, we can set ourselves up for inevitable power struggles to follow suit. Power struggles occur when two or more people have a conflict where they want different things. 

For example, you might want your child to stay home on weekends to study hard, get good grades, and be successful in life. However, your child might want to spend the entire weekend out with friends, surfing the internet or social media, or playing video games. Can both of these desires co-exist peacefully, or do kids need to be told what to do “for their good?”

When we get into power struggles with our kids, we attempt to exert control over their actions. Of course, if your child fails in school due to low grades, you do not want to see them slack off all weekend. However, your child might have another need that they are attempting to fulfill, albeit perhaps, to excess. 

As parents, we can set limits, curfews, and other expectations to provide consequences or to influence behavior. These consequences can help your child make the right decisions without being controlled. However, attempting to control your child’s every action might only serve to escalate the situation or lead to damaging your relationship. 

Let Your Kid Deal With Consequences

Aside from real “life or limb” scenarios where our child is in imminent danger (such as overdoses, suicide attempts, driving under the influence), we might need to learn to take a step back. Will failing classes cause your child irreversible damage? You might worry about your child’s future and feel that failure will cause them harm down the road as adults. However, that is a long time from now. At this moment, we can set up learning opportunities for our kids to be successful as adults in the future. Letting our kids deal with natural consequences can be the best way for them to learn. 

We can allow our kids to make mistakes and do not need to control all of their actions. We can create consequences that can help them learn better ways of having their needs met as we step back. Remember to have some perspective on the situation at hand. Ask yourself, “Can my child learn from this mistake for their betterment?” We might need to look back at our failures to remember that failure is often the way we learn best.

Control Is About Protection

Remember, too, that wanting control over your child’s behaviors and actions is, at its core, an act of love and concern. You might be thinking about the worst-case scenarios that can present themselves if your child makes mistakes or needs to suffer consequences. Ultimately, you are protecting them from harm. However, we can look at the long-term and see the value in learning these lessons when the consequences are relatively small. Dr. Charles Fay reminds us that sometimes, we have to consider consequences with the following thought in mind: “Pay now or pay bigger.” 

When we control too much of our child’s behavior and do not allow them to make mistakes or let them suffer the consequences (unless there is an actual “life and limb” scenario present), we are depriving them of the gift of failure.

Be the Influencer and Have Your Kid’s Back

When we step back as parents and let our kids deal with consequences, we can stand behind them and support them through their struggles. If your kid is failing in their classes, we can set up an environment conducive to learning, set limits on distractions, and take other steps to influence their behavior. However, we cannot control what they do with their time or how seriously they will study. 

For example, if our kids end up failing and then are held back a grade, they will experience a consequence that can be the best lesson for them in the future. After the failure, we can continue to help our kids grow by listening to their frustrations, validating their feelings, and partnering with them to achieve success.

When we influence our kids to engage in practices that will lead to successful outcomes, we might need to relinquish our feeling of control over what happens. Even if we do all the right things to influence our kids to make the best decisions, we cannot control what they choose to do. Only during times where our children are in imminent danger can we step in to keep them from harm. When the harm facing our children might be developing bad study habits or facing legal issues for stealing, for example, we might need to take a step back and allow them to deal with the consequences. Then, we can guide them to prevent issues from recurring and influence them toward success. If your child is struggling with problem behaviors, and you are feeling overwhelmed or gravely concerned, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, might be able to help you. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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