The Illusion of Control
It is number four on the list.
The list is actually a good set of questions at the beginning of Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Empowering Your Teen and Yourself Through Kind and Firm Parenting, which was written by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott and that was published in 2000. (When did 2000 start sounding like it was a long time ago?)
The questions are meant to set the tone for the focus of the book and provide an outline for the book’s content. Today’s blog, though, is not meant to be a review of the book, rather it is overarching Question #4 that gets our attention.
4. Do you have the illusion that control is effective with teens?
The authors admit that “control sometimes provides the illusion of success on a short-term basis,” but that sooner or later kids being controlled will go “underground” in search of simple freedoms and power. Going underground means that kids will comply on the surface when they are in the presence of a parent or teacher, but then will behave differently when alone or with friends. This is why the phrase “illusion of control” is so important.
Developmentally, the importance of the teen years cannot be overstated. It is an intense decade of insecurity, fear, and angst, but it also brings the discovery of personal identity and values, a process that begins to form an overall view of the world. Teens, rather than going underground to elude adult control, need caring adults in their lives to help them navigate the pressures and complexities. It is developmentally appropriate for teens to want to separate from parents and teachers, though. Just like baby eaglets high up in a nest, each of them will need to at some point step out into the unknown and fly on her/his own.
Because teens are no different than other members of the human race (no, they are not from a different planet) and are internally-controlled just like the rest of us, external control will lead to two possible outcomes –
1) Adult efforts to control teen thinking and behavior will cause them to go underground where they can attempt to live their lives on their own terms.
2) Adult efforts to control teen thinking and behavior will cause them to give up on discovering their own identity and values and lead them to be dependent on others for their thinking and their direction.
I assume that we are in agreement that neither of these options is appealing.
Glasser believed that the most important thing when it comes to parents, teachers, and teens is to get and stay connected. Getting and staying connected means that we will not attempt to force our Quality World pictures into the heads of the important teens in our lives. As Glasser said repeatedly, as long as we are connected we have influence. When we attempt to externally control a teen we threaten and often sever that influence. And we unwittingly do this at a time when teens most need our influence.
As long as we are connected, we have influence.
Positive relationships, connection, and influence are the result of our learning to use the Caring Habits, rather than the Deadly Habits. It always comes back to this.
Here is the complete list of overarching questions at the start of the book, Positive Discipline for Teenagers.
Are you building appropriate bridges for your teen?
Do you understand the developmental growth process?
Have you lost your perspective and your sense of humor?
Do you have the illusion that control is effective with teens?
How will your teen react to your new parenting skills?
Have you forgotten that you count, too?
Does your teen have the same needs as other teens?
Are you working with your teen?
Two courses on Choice Theory beliefs and strategies are scheduled for this summer (2018) at Pacific Union College. They are –
The Better Plan 1 June 25-28
The Better Plan 2 July 9-12