I’ve been thinking a lot about control lately.
Sometimes it’s a good thing, like when you want to eat all the Cheez-Its while your healthy dinner is cooking (true story). Self-control is an amazing quality to have and one I continue to cultivate.
But where else is control a good thing? Can a person really control anything besides his/her own behaviors, actions, thoughts and feelings? I’m inclined to say no. And I think we spend a lot of time being unhappy because we’re trying so dang hard to control things that are, frankly, out of our control.
I had one of those “a-ha” moments recently. Dinner has always been a battle with my son. To the point where pretty much everyone dreaded it. I’d cook a healthy meal, my husband and I could beg/cajole/threaten/barter/bribe our son to just take a bite, he’d refuse. Repeat. Sometimes it ended with me in tears, because even though I know I shouldn’t take the opinions of a 3-year-old to heart, sometimes it really, really hurt that he rejected the meals I cooked. It got so bad that one night (when he was having sweet potato pancakes – a favorite – for dinner), my son announced, “This isn’t dinner. This is yummy!” Dinner had officially became a bad word.
Well, I got tired of being angry and frustrated after a meal. So I hopped on Google and found this wonderful piece from Positive Parenting Solutions. It wasn’t about the food – it was about power. Colt is definitely entering a more defiant stage, so it makes sense that he’s figured out he can assert power over us at the dinner table, IF WE LET HIM. .
For the past few days, I have not engaged with him. I give him a plate of food (making sure to add one or two familiar foods if the main dish is something new), I ask him to eat and then I let it go. We tell him when dinner is about to be over, and then take the plate away when it’s over. No fighting, no whining, no threatening. He doesn’t always eat, but that’s ok. I’m giving him the power to choose, rather than trying to control whether he eats or not.
I know from my recovery work that trying to control too much is a guarantee that something will go wrong. Took me awhile to make the connection between the dinner battles and my need to control everything, but now that I have – sweet relief. Dinner is pleasant again. The part I can control is providing him with healthy foods. The rest is up to him.
What areas of parenting do you think you’ve been trying to control too much?