Answer me this.
Do you feel more at ease when you have the sense that you are somewhat in control over things or when you have little to no control over things?
(By the way – this is kind of a trick question. The fact is that 99% of life is out of our control, but back to the original question…)
I’m guessing you answered that you feel more at ease if you feel some sense of control.
Do you think your kids, being smaller and younger human beings themselves, would answer this question the same way?
They too feel more at ease the more control they feel (and think they have).
But, as stated before, we don’t control 99% of life.
It may be small, but it represents something big to each of us.
The 1% we control is OURSELVES.
We have ultimate control over what we think, feel and how we act.
Another word for this?
To be in charge of yourself.
This is a MAJOR. LIFE. SKILL.
How do we help our kids develop this skill?
How do we help them create the sense of control over themselves?
They need practice.
Which means we need to STOP controlling them so that they can START controlling themselves.
Can we, as parents, stop trying to completely control their schedules, packing them with activities, requirements and “resume’ building” endeavors?
Can we, as parents, stop trying to completely control how our kids should approach a challenge, a problem or school project?
Can we, as parents, strop trying to completely control their interactions with the outside world, buffering them from the pain of rejection (by making sure everyone is invited to every birthday party) or loss (by making sure everyone gets a trophy, win or lose)?
If kids’ schedules, assignments, social environments and thus – their emotions – are controlled by us, our kids start to feel MICROMANAGED.
And as adults who know how this can feel – especially if we were micromanaged as kids or as adults within our jobs and careers – we know how miserable being micromanaged feels.
It can make us and our micromanaged kids feel sad, hopeless and victims that have zero control over their lives.
If we want kids that are emotionally healthy…
If we want kids that aren’t overly anxious…
If we want kids that aren’t overly sad and hopeless…
If we want kids that can face life’s challenges…
We need to give some control over to our kids so they can build their self-regulation muscles.
They need to feel levels of discomfort and distress to build up the skills to manage those feelings.
They need to feel uncomfortable in order to build up the skills to tolerate being uncomfortable, especially since 50% of life is being uncomfortable.
“Where can I hand the ‘control baton’ over to my kid in the relay race of life?”
Can you assess, along with your child, if the activity they want to do has a schedule that isn’t dominating their (and the family’s) free time?
(And if it is an unacceptable amount of time, can you, together with your child, find a less time intense version of that activity?)
This is a great lesson in trade offs and living a life in balance.
Can you take a hands-off approach to your kid’s science fair project, book report presentation or other assignment, allowing your kid to bring their level of effort and vision to THEIR project?
Can you let your child feel left out if they weren’t invited to the birthday party without rushing in to take their mind off it?
Can you let your child feel like a loser if in fact they lost the game?