Sometimes it takes a lot of looking and reflecting to see our own controlling tendencies, but the truth is that we all have them! Both permissive and controlling parenting are going to come up in us. It's the things I can't see in myself that scare me the most, because not seeing them doesn't mean they aren't in me, it just means they're unseen. So consider if and how yesterday's post about permissive parenting along with today's post relate to you even if the specific examples don't resonate.
So if and when you're being a controlling parent, it may look like:
Whether your children are young or old, they know that rough things have been going on in the world this week. Babies and tiny children don't need to understand what we're talking about to sense that something is wrong. They feel it in their bodies. Our tension, the heaviness or emotion in our voices, and changes in how we move or pay attention are easy for little guys to read and respond to.
School-age children know that something's going on even when we are careful not to talk about the Orlando mass shooting (or other shootings and shocking and violent events in the news) in front of them. Kids sense our feelings, reacting not to how we think we feel, but to how we actually feel. Consider if your child ever says "Why are you mad, Mommy," and you assure them you aren't mad, all the while wondering how they can tell. They sense it.
Tweens and teens are certainly hearing about these tragic events in school, from their friends, and/or on social media. Some may read, talk, argue, collect information and try to make sense of what's going on. Others may say nothing about it at home and avoid conversations, but may be thinking about it. Others may ask questions or express anxiety or other emotions.
So if your child (at any age) has been unsettled, fussy, restless, clingy, or irritable, they may be processing their feelings about this shooting. Be careful! Don't watch or discuss the news in front of your children (unless they are teens). If they're ready to talk about it, make sure you talk in developmentally-appropriate ways. Listen to their stories, concerns, and emotions if they bring them up, but don't add your own feelings to the burdens they already carry, talk to an adult instead. Help them have space to have their feelings, even when their feelings make you uncomfortable. Be extra gentle, remembering that they are affected even if they aren't talking about it. And be gentle with yourself, remembering that you may be heartbroken, angry, or scared, too.
We need space and time to care for ourselves, space to hear our own voices and tune into our own feelings. The world--in the form of our children, parents, colleagues, schools, volunteer organizations, etc,--will always have urgent demands on our time. If we feel that we must do everything that we are asked to do, there may be no time for the things that are truly important to us.
Cultivate the ability to say 'no.' Practice it! Think of something you said 'yes' to but wish you had said 'no.' Imagine going back to the moment you said 'yes' and try a mental do-over. What could you have said? 'No thanks, I'm not free that day.' 'I won't be able to make it.' 'I've been really busy, I need to take some time to catch up with myself.' It doesn't necessarily matter what you say, but try out some ways to say 'no' and keep them in your back pocket, ready when the need arises.
If you find yourself agreeing to do things in the moment and only realizing later that you don't want to, consider cultivating a 'wait and see' answer. 'I'll have to check my schedule and let you know.' 'Can I let you know tomorrow?' 'Things have been kind of crazy, I'm just not sure if I can.'
Every 'no' has a yes in it. When you say 'no' to the things that aren't important to you, there's space for the things that matter most, including your own self-care.
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.