Speaking on control
by Rob Coombs ID. Min. Ph.D.
Mar 30, 2014 | 937 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every child has heard the warning, “Look left, then right, then left again before crossing the street.” Because failure to do so can bring fatal consequences, this lesson is rehearsed again and again and again.

Eventually, parents come to believe that the lesson has been learned and feel reasonably certain that their child will look left, then right, then left again before crossing even when the parents are not present.

The key, of course, is knowing when the child has learned this lesson and therefore when you no longer need to remind her to look left, then right, then left again before crossing. Some parents do not teach this lesson well enough, but most parents over-teach this lesson, to the point that children become resentful and frustrated.

This resentment and frustration are directly related to the attempt of the parent to control a child’s life when the child is quite capable of controlling her own life. When a parent over-teaches the lesson to look left, then right, then left again before crossing, the child receives a multitude of negative messages.

— “You’re too stupid to really understand and practice what I have taught you.”

— “You’re too immature to manage your own life.”

— “I have to tell you again and again things you ought to know for yourself.”

— “Without me, you couldn’t even make it across the street.”

To avoid such negative and demeaning messages to your child, you must know when a lesson has been learned well enough to let go of that message and move on to a new lesson. Failure to do so increases the likelihood that the child will either rebel in an attempt to establish autonomy (which can lead to rather severe consequences) or comply, believing that it’s less conflictive to just do it your way (which can lead to chronic depression).

Ironically, compliance or rebellion is really not what most healthy parents want. What parents want is for their child to get across the street without being hurt. Since there are a lot of ways to get hurt crossing the streets of life, most good parents worry well into the adult lives of their children. Such worry is born out of a loving desire to keep their child safe.

Crossing the streets of life is filled with hazards that can make any parent shudder. Not only are there speeding cars, but there are far more insidious hazards, such as drinking and driving, teen pregnancy, temptations to cheat, lie or steal, experimentation with drugs — just to mention a few. Born out of fear and love, it’s easy for parents to become consumed with a desire to protect their child, to the point of reminding them over and over and over again to look left, then right, then left again before crossing, even when such reminding is no longer necessary.

How does a parent know when a lesson truly has been learned? Look deep within yourself and ask, “Am I teaching this lesson to meet my needs or my child’s needs?”