I never saw myself as a control freak, I would see other people trying to control everything and everyone around them and think…”Phew, I’m glad I’m not like that, must be a nightmare to live with!” The other day my 5 year old son lost control because something he wanted to happen just couldn’t. He stood in the hallway of our house and SCREAMED and cried. I did my usual thing and tried to cuddle him…he pushed me away…I tried to talk him down…he just screamed louder and then out of desperation for him to STOP, I offered chocolate…he shouted NO at me and carried on. Then I realised what I was trying to do. I was the one feeling uncomfortable with my son’s feelings and emotions but he was just releasing his frustration. I was trying to stop that release because I was finding it difficult to witness…I was trying to CONTROL the situation. So, I just let go….I sat down on the floor of the hallway and just stayed with my son, when he stopped he came over, sat on my lap and we hugged but said nothing.
How often do children get sent “out of the room” when they display an emotion that we adults don’t feel “Comfortable” with. Our children are fine until they display a behaviour that we see as “Out of Control” or should I say….out of OUR control. So, whether we send them to their room or offer chocolate, we are trying to control another person’s feelings.
This controlling is a slippery thing, it can be hidden in all sorts of behaviours, even ones we believe we are doing for the Highest Good of everyone. Parenthood is full of it. We want life to look and be a certain way that fits in to our belief systems. We do the same with people, especially children, we want them to act a certain way….EAT what we think they should eat, GO TO BED when it’s convenient for us, PLAY with toys that fit into OUR philosophy (I was a wooden toy only parent for years). But, I’ve realised living (like working) with other people, whether they are children or adults is about compromise and negotiation. We have to find a way of allowing everyone to have their needs met as best as possible rather than just trying to CONTROL each other. Children are not stupid, if we adults try to control them, they will find ways to control us, finding our weak spots, usually our “Guilty parent button”…it’s the only way they can feel like they have some control over their own lives.
My son hates going sleep at night but hey, I need some time in the evening for myself, so we have a deal….he goes up to bed but can have his lamp on until a certain time so he can play with his lego. After a certain time we suggest he gets into bed but can still have the lamp on and play or read in bed…we didn’t TELL him how this would be, we spoke to him about it. It was a democratic decision.
I’m doing this more and more now. The other day I called a family meeting and spoke of my concern about how many sweets my children were eating. I asked them to come up with ideas about how they could look after their health but still enjoy their sweets….we are trying some ideas out. It doesn’t seem to matter if some ideas fail or only work for a certain amount of time, in fact it’s good they do, as it stops rigidness setting in and teaches us to “Go with the Flow” as everything changes all the time.
Working this way together, gives children a chance to discover and trust in they own authority, to take responsibility for themselves and this is empowerment. If a child eats chocolate until they are sick, next time they will know their limit or maybe it will take a couple of times of being sick before they feel enough is enough. Trying to CONTROL everyone and everything is exhausting and frustrating because nobody likes to be controlled so there is always a constant battle. We also need to learn to TRUST in our children’s life process…they may be into something one day and not the next..so what? They are just exploring the world and learning about themselves. So, maybe we need to LET GO OF CONTROL AND EMBRACE DEEP DEMOCRACY for all.