Episode #2 of the course Parenting skills to raise responsible, mature children by Roger K. Allen, PhD
Today, I’m going to explore ways we fall into the parenting traps of over-controlling or over-indulging our children. We can only give up these tendencies if we are aware of them and their consequences.
By the way, we fall into these traps because we love our children. We want them to be happy, have friends, do well in school, and grow up to be capable adults. This desire makes it easy for us to become confused about our responsibility vs. their responsibility and thus, fall into the traps that we’ll explore below.
How We Over-Control
Lecturing: Moralizing and telling children how to think, feel, and act, which builds resentment and deprives them of the opportunity to think for themselves.
Arguing: Getting caught up in verbal battles, trying to convince them that we’re “right” and they are “wrong,” which only leads to more entrenched positions.
Criticizing: Finding fault and making negative comments about their character or behavior to get them to do what we want.
Getting mad: Yelling, hitting, fuming, etc. Expresses parent’s powerlessness and causes the child to feel resentment and shame.
Giving “nifty plans”: Telling kids what to do or how to solve their problems. It will usually be rejected. Even if accepted, it breeds dependency and lack of faith in self.
Comparing: Pointing out differences between one child and another to either make them feel good or get them to change.
Blaming: Accusing another of negative motives or attributing a negative situation to them.
Threatening: Verbally expressing an intention to impose a severe consequence, often with no intention to carry it out.
Nagging: Scolding, reminding, or complaining to get a child to do what you want.
All these tactics are ways of taking over to get our children to do what we want. We use them when we feel fearful and anxious. The tactics either cause our children to become compliant (good) or rebellious (bad). Either way, over-controlling keeps our children from taking responsibility for themselves and plants subtle messages in their minds:
• “You think I’m bad or stupid or inferior.”
• “You don’t care about my feelings or will. You just want me to please you.”
• “You don’t trust me to work this out on my own.”
How We Over-Indulge
Hovering: Being overly aware and responsive to a child’s every move. Failure to allow them the physical or emotional space to make choices or act on their own.
Sympathizing: Communicating pity, which is different from empathy. Rewards them for feeling bad rather than taking action.
Avoiding: Withdrawing into ourselves and leaving our children without support, structure, or guidance because we are uncertain or overwhelmed by their needs.
Accommodating: Giving in to a child’s whims and wishes. Bending over backward to keep them happy or making sure that things go their way so they won’t be upset.
Fixing: Solving a problem or doing for a child what they could and should be able to do for themselves: making a bed, choosing clothes, talking to a teacher, etc.
Rescuing: Trying to make a child feel better by undoing consequences or not allowing a child to face the consequences of their actions or choices.
Protecting: Preventing a child from facing the realities of life by not letting them engage in experiences that involve social, emotional, or even physical risk.
Flip-flopping: Setting a boundary, then reneging because it wasn’t convenient, the kids pushed back, or you thought you were being harsh.
Pleading: Begging kids to do what you want rather than being clear and firm.
Bribing: Making a promise to do/give something so a child will do something they should probably be doing anyway.
Giving in: Wearing down as you hear whining or complaints. Letting a child do/have what they want to avoid enforcing a boundary because it’s easier.
When we overindulge, we give children too much power or reward their bad behavior rather than letting them face consequences and learn responsibility. We try to keep them happy and so end up giving away our parental authority. Children get messages like:
• “I have to get my way to feel happy.”
• “Limits don’t apply to me.”
• “No one is more powerful than me.”
• “Someone else will make things all better.”
What I want you to see from this lesson is how easily we fall into over-controlling and over-indulging.
So, take a moment to reflect. How and when do you over-control? How and when do you over-indulge? Can you see the consequences?
In the remainder of the course, I’ll give you specific communication skills as an alternative to these parenting traps. I’ll start with the skill of affirming in the next lesson.
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