Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

My Control Is Ruining My Kids

my control issues with kids Des Moines Moms Blog

I have three kids, two of whom are in middle school. They’re bright, kind, well-rounded and, for the most part, make good decisions. But, I’ve noticed a trend in my parenting recently that has me concerned:

I’m trying to control them.

When they were young, I swore I would never be one of “those” parents. I would never be a parent who hovered. I wouldn’t make decisions for my kids nor would I bail them out of the consequences of poor ones they made. I promised I wouldn’t hyper-parent being all up in their business or looking over their shoulder. I wanted to raise confident, wise adults and I knew I needed to give them lots of practice making decisions on their own to achieve that.

Until my kids became teenagers.

Note: It’s amazing how many answers we have for certain stages of parenting BEFORE we actually reach those stages of parenting. Shoot, before I became a mom, I just KNEW I’d be a super patient, always cool, ready with a craft, game or snack kind of parent. {Wrong.}

Suddenly now, with two kids in middle school, I’m ready to chuck my “give them room to fail” parenting philosophies out the window. I’m worried about what they face every day and the damage it does to their hearts. I’m painfully aware of how quickly the sand is running out of the Time Still Under My Roof hourglass and I’m starting to panic that:

  • I’ve failed them as a mother by not preparing them adequately.

  • They won’t survive employment, marriage, or mortgages.

  • They will live in my basement for eternity.

That’s where my control kicks in.

Control is dealing with your anxiety alone. And as my kids have gotten older, my anxiety has only increased. But, unfortunately, so has my control.

Without even realizing it, I began majoring on the minors in my kids’ lives. Fixating on small, miscellaneous tasks or points that don’t matter AT ALL in the grand scheme of the world.

Remember the modern proverb, “Don’t sweat the small stuff…..and it’s all small stuff.”? Yep, that’s me. Sweating small stuff like my job is to teach hot yoga in a sauna.

This was all brought to my attention when, for the umpteenth time that morning {Lord, protect him from his crazy mother}, I reminded my 13 year-old son to put on deodorant and he stopped in his tracks to give me a look that was a combination of:

  • “Do you seriously think I didn’t hear you the first 38 times?”

  • “Woman, you have GOT to stop.”

  • “What is this deodorant for which you speak?”

Either way, his look said it all. I needed to back off because my control was ruining my relationship with my son.

He was starting to resent me and all the reminding, cajoling, nagging, and harping. While I thought I was being helpful and communicating my interest and love, my behavior was actually saying to my kids, “I don’t think you can do this without me. You aren’t capable. You don’t have what it takes.”

Which wasn’t true. (Well, except for wondering if he ever WOULD put on deodorant on his OWN initiative……bygones.) I really do think that both my middle schoolers are capable of making good, responsible choices. Or, at least, learning from poor choices without any additional reminders or lessons from me.

Yet, my words and actions did not convey this trust and belief. In fact, they did the exact opposite.

When I saw the look of frustration and contempt on my son’s face, I knew things needed to change. I needed to change. If I wanted to maintain a loving relationship with my kids, free of discouragement, bitterness, and contempt, I needed to stop trying to control them.

So, I took a good hard look at why I was afraid and anxious. And I asked myself pointed questions like:

  • “Why do I expect my middle schooler to respond to moments like a middle-aged woman (me)?”

  • “Is my control really about preventing them from making mistakes or my concern that their poor choices will reflect badly upon me as a parent?”

  • “If they blow this situation badly, what’s the worst that can happen and can we walk through it together?”

I also reflected on our kids and imagined them in the future. Sure, we live in a world that has some scary stuff out there. Intense situations certainly face my kids at younger ages than I faced them. But, hopefully I’m raising kids who are equally strong. They can make mistakes because our relationship is one of grace and encouragement. And if nothing else, they can take risks knowing that I’ll be there to help them up if they fall.

I sat down with my son and apologized for my controlling behavior. I explained its source and corrected the false messages it was trying communicate. I reminded him that I believed in him and asked him to help me discover a new path of helping without controlling.

At the end of the discussion, I asked my son if he thought he could be responsible without incessant reminders from me. He said, “I honestly don’t know.”

A frank answer and true given that I haven’t given him much practice of late. But, as his mother, I know the answer. Sometimes he’ll fly and sometimes he’ll fall. But, he’ll never have a chance to discover for himself what he’s capable of if I don’t let go.

How do you try to control your kids? 

, ,

2 Responses to My Control Is Ruining My Kids

  1. Amanda April 19, 2018 at 8:59 am #

    I’ve definitely had challenges with my kids, but something that has worked well for me is to take the time when they make a mistake and use it as a learning opportunity.

    I went to a site called and they have a video that talks about how to teach kids life skills…

    In essence, I find out what mistake they’ve made; I often share a story about how I struggled with it; I relate why it’s important to something my kids find important; and then I let my kids talk about how they would do something different and we have a discussion.

    I’ve learned more about my two boys in the last 8 months than I thought possible!

    • Christine Meggison April 23, 2018 at 8:07 pm #

      Amanda: thanks for sharing about Prepare My Kid. I’m excited to check that out! I love your advice to turn a mistake into a learning opportunity and it sounds like you are making great progress with boys. Keep it up!

Leave a Reply