HOW DO I CONTROL MY KIDS
This article explores "helicopter parenting," examines fear as an origin of this style of parenting and invites an empowering shift to take place.
HOW DO I CONTROL MY KIDS?
Many parents share a common anxiety in one form or another. This anxiety falls under the umbrella of “feeling like I must control my kids.” If you find yourself falling into this “helicopter parenting style,” it might be time to take a good look at where this is coming from. Like many human behaviors displayed into adulthood, parenting styles can often be traced back to our own fears.
In this particular case, we’re taking a look at a common fear that often leads to a more hovering and “over-controlling” style of parenting and where it comes from. This style is often referred to as “Helicopter Parenting.” We’ll refer to it as (HP) for the remainder of this article. As a Family Dynamics Specialist, I have watched HP be able to be traced back to a common fear.
This is the fear of other people’s opinions.
First, we will take a closer look at this fear of other people’s opinions which is often embedded into the internal dialogue…”What will other people think of me as parent based on my child’s choices or outcomes?” Here, we’ll be exploring “the fear” in detail as it is associated with the specific area of a child’s choice of friends. We will then explore a “perspective shift” that needs to be considered and or implemented that will both help parents learn to “let go” of fears while also empowering them to find satisifaction in their parenting efforts up to present day and beyond and move forward with a “broader perspective” into the future as their children age into full blown adults with mortgages, marriages, and margarita mix in their refrigerators.
Have you ever found yourself wishing that your child didn’t spend time with a certain person as a friend? Social fears usually manifest in the fear-based internal dialogue or belief system “I’m afraid they’re going to pick the wrong friends.” It’s true! The research is out there that in fact, we tend to embody the behaviors, mindsets and lifestyles of the five people we most surround ourselves with. So it stands to reason that as parents, we would be concerned with who they are choosing to spend the most time with. With that said, many parents let this fear be driven by “what other’s will think of me as a parent based on who my kid hangs out with.” And here is where HP begins to rear its ugly head. I’ve had parents comb through their child’s text messages, explore their emails and even “listen outside the door” in an effort “to keep them safe.” These are all classic examples of extreme HP occurring. But how does this fear that we speak of truly push us to engage in such extreme behaviors?
With a little digging, parents are often able to articulate that they in fact directly use their children’s choice of friends as a reflection of their ability to be successful as a parent. This is incredibly dangerous for a number of reasons. First and foremost, if you’re child is spending time with people you “don’t approve of” and you are articulating this to your child, they are going to simply pull away from the relationship with you. After all, they are feeling “rejected” by their parent because from this lack of approval. The other reason this is such a risky behavior is that the parent is associating “an adult decision” on behalf of their child with their worth as a parent which leads to an urge to control the situation and in extreme cases, can result in the actions mentioned above right on over to the extreme of trying to “forbid their child to spend time with someone that they don’t approve of.”
Perspective implementation and shift…
As a friendly reminder (and some of us need to hear this more than others), if a child over 18 years of age, this social fear is no longer your decision or your responsibility to make for them or concern yourself with, let alone associating this as a direct reflection of your parenting efforts. And here’s where the perspective shift comes into play. Once our children turn 18, they are “adults” in the eyes of the law. They can vote in local, state and federal elections, they can purchase tobacco products, and they can be charged “as an adult” in the legal system. This means that there is a shift that needs to take place in which we as parents learn to “let go” and let our children decide for themselves who they would like to spend their time with. We would like to hope that we’ve taught them concepts that helped them develop their self efficacy and self determination in a way that they have the skillset to determine the degree to which certain people in their lives contribute to their existence in a productive and loving manner. In other words, if we’ve done our jobs as parents when they were younger, we did our best to teach them how to know if someone is a good friend or not. But at the end of the day, its not going to be up to you to determine, influence or control their choice of and or quality of friends in their lives as they continue to mature into adulthood.
Ok…”fair enough” you might say. But then the question is quickly asked…
“What do I do with my fears of what other people think of me as a parent based on who my child (young adult) spends time with?”
I’m thrilled you asked!
The late, great Dr. Wayne Dyer offers us an incredibly empowering concept in his book “The Power of Intention” that can liberate us from the fear of what others think of us and our parenting efforts. The statement is simply this…
“What you think of me is none of my business.”
As we examine this concept further, the very language here takes us to a place of ownership and accountability. Here, we begin to realize that our thoughts are just that…they’re ours, nobody else’s. Likewise, someone else’s thoughts simpy do not belong to us. As a result, they are not ours to concern ourselves with or take any ownership of whatsoever. This concept goes directly against the grain of statements many of us heard from our own parents growing up. “What will people think of you if they see you…with that person, in those clothes, with that job, attending that school, etc?” These are all questions that directly point towards concerning ourselves with the thoughts and opinions of other people. And it is these questions that cause us to over think the outfits we decide to wear, the professions we choose to pursue, the friends we surround ourselves with. The list goes on. But if we can take a breath and we can take ownership of and accountability for our own thoughts, feelings and efforts separate of other people’s influence, this concept becomes incredibly liberating!!! Now, we’ve created a foundation for parenting not from a “place of fear of other’s opinions” but from a “place of confidence in and accountability for one’s own efforts!”
What would happen? What COULD happen if you were able to parent from a liberated place in which you weren’t concerned with other people’s opinions? In what ways would you feel liberated to simply make your best efforts to guide your young adults to a place of decision-making that simply empowered them to always default to concepts like “trust your gut, trust yourself to make the best decisions for yourself” and here’s how you assess those decisions. One thing is for sure…helicopter parenting would be a whole lot less likely to be a default response and or approach to raising our young adults, as many of the fears that were once driving this parenting style have now been eliminated with our new perspective shift that has taken place.
As we come to a close and you reflect on your own fears that have driven your parenting styles, parenting decisions and paradigms, allow yourself to look for opportunities to make a shift. See if there is an opportunity to make a shift from parenting from a place fear to parenting from a place of empowerment, education, love of self and trust of your young adult’s abilities to make decisions for themselves in their own best interest.