Going from controlling children to enjoying them

By Derold “De” Bates, Ed.S.

Sometimes it is not good to work yourself out of a job, but in successful parenting, that is precisely our goal.

When a baby is born, he is 99 percent dependant upon his parents. By the time he is 18 years old he should be at least 95 percent independent. What goes on in those 18 years is what we call “parenting.” Parents, then, have about 18 years to transfer the control of a child’s life to the child. I call this the science and the art of parenting.

The science of parenting includes strategies for parents that are designed to successfully transfer the control of a child’s life to the child. Parents hope this will happen but often do not follow a plan to cause it to happen. *

The art of parenting is determining how much and how soon the control is given to the child. For example, it would not be successful for a parent to transfer total control to the child on the first day of his life. It is not feasible to transfer total control the first week or the first month or even the first year. Likewise it would not be successful if the control is only transferred at high-school graduation.

No parent who has control of his or her own life would transfer control at the extremes described above; however, many parents will tend to transfer too soon while many will transfer too late. Sometimes it may be too soon in one situation and too late in another, depending on the parent’s mood at the time. Each extreme creates its own type of problem between parent and child.

In a nutshell the goal is to transfer control as soon as, and as much as, a child can handle it successfully. With that understanding, let’s talk about going from controlling to enjoying children.

Can you remember the excitement and joy you felt when your first child took his first steps? That same excitement and joy can accompany each successful step a child takes toward independence.

Now fast-forward nine years. Ten-year-old Jason arrives home from school on schedule and puts his backpack on the kitchen table.

A permissive parent would say nothing.

A controlling parent would say, “Put your backpack in your room! You know it does not belong in the kitchen where I have to move it to do my work. How many times do I have to tell you? When will you ever learn?”

A parent who is enjoying each step might have an exchange like this;

“Jason, how was your day?” and would listen while he tells about his day. That parent then would say, “I surely appreciate you for being home on time. You are good at coming straight home —  thanks. That helps me to know when to expect you. Do you like it when I nag you about leaving your things in the kitchen?” If he doesn’t like it (and who would?), the next question could be, “What could you do so I could never nag you about your backpack being on the table?”

Jason might say, “I could take it to my room when I first get home.”

Parent: “Great. Do you think you could remember to do that starting tomorrow?”

Jason: “Uh huh”

Parent:  “If you can do that, I promise I will not nag you about it, okay?”

Jason: “Yeah.”

Now, let’s compare the responses of each of the three parents.

The permissive parent does nothing and the backpack will likely continue to come to the kitchen when he is in the twelfth grade. Jason will not correct the problem because he does not know there is a problem.

The controlling parent will predictably continue to control because in his or her mind, that is what parents are supposed to do — control their kids. This will predictably lead Jason to rebellion by the time he becomes a teenager.

The parent who is enjoying Jason is creating a situation allowing him to take a step towards his independence. This parent took more time, but it was spent in a positive way — and think of the time he or she will save tomorrow and each tomorrow to come.

It is not only possible but also advisable for parents who are controlling to go from controlling to enjoying their children.

For more information refer to Bates’ book “Three Steps to Success in Parenting and in Life,” available in bookstores and through this Web site successinparenting.com. Questions and comments can be emailed to debates3@gmail.com.

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