Influence vs Control
Your comments regarding the 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do got me to thinking. I was drawn to #7 – Expect your child to fulfill your dreams as an important one on which to comment, but now I see that each of them might be instructive under the choice theory microscope. We’ll do one at a time so that it won’t take (Tom) so long to read. Add your comments to fill in ideas that I leave out. Let’s start with #1 – Baby your child.
The 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do
1. Baby your child.
Providing support and guidance, and certainly exerting supervision and control when it comes to safety issues, is necessary and appropriate. We wouldn’t let a three year old cross a busy street on his own, even if he pulled his hand away from ours and insisted that we leave him alone. We would grab his hand right back and keep him from running into traffic. There is a difference, though, between appropriate supervision and overprotective babying.
Often the difference has more to do with our need for control than it does with the needs of our children or students. Choice theory is based on the idea that every human being is guided by an internal control mechanism. We were created with free will, an incredible attribute that God has gone to incredible lengths to preserve, and, by extension, have been given the power, and the responsibility, to make choices. God values our freedom a great deal.
With this in mind it becomes clear that children need to learn about this freedom and, as soon as possible, learn to make good choices. The teacher or parent who understands choice theory will want to wean children from their control, rather than seek to perpetuate their control. Our goal is to fit our children for healthy lives, not because we are controlling their decisions, but because they are making good choices even when supervision is not around. We want them to be self-supervisors, right? (Think of Jochabed preparing Moses to leave home at 12 years of age.)
The paradox here is noteworthy. The important thing is influence. To have influence with our students or children is what we really want. Yet the more we attempt to control children, the less influence we have with them. There are too many well-meaning parents who have literally fought to control their children, to supervise at every turn, to oversee every event, threatening and punishing all the way, only to lose the thing they want most – influence. (When I visited my mother when she was living in a retirement center, I would hear stories from her about how some of the residents’ children – the children being 50 and 60 years of age – would have nothing to do with them, would never come to visit them, still angry about how they are continuing to be treated by their, by now, aged parents. A controlling spirit can last a long time.) The important thing is to stay connected. No matter what – stay connected. Because as long as you are connected to your kids, you have influence.
2. Put your marriage last.
3. Push your child into too many activities.
4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life.
5. Be your child’s best friend.
6. Fail to give your child structure.
7. Expect your child to fulfill your dreams.
Friel, J. and Friel, L. (1999). The 7 worst things good parents do. New York: Barnes & Noble.
As I read and reread this entry, I powerfully realized that this concept of control although focused on children in this context, really has no age limit, as shared in regard to “aged parents.” One of the dangers of control is that it is easy to justify it’s use in our own heads. We rationalize that we control to protect ourselves or others, especially our loved ones and even more our children. Once we get into the mode, our brains continue to strive for control in every area of life for the betterment and safety of mankind, not just children. If we are not careful power entities subtly control when choice will be allowed and when it will not.