Thursday, October 17, 2013

Containment vs. Control

Let’s face it, sometimes we don’t know which choice to make or how to respond to our children. Other times, we knee-jerk without thinking! We want to say yes to our children so they may develop a sense of empowerment that will take them into the world with confidence and optimism. However, we also need to establish and hold boundaries so that they are safe and well adjusted. Allowing children to fully express themselves and make their own choices and mistakes are all areas of challenge for many parents.  

Q: How do we steer away from powerstruggle and punishment mode and respond to our children in a way that effectively teaches and guides?  

Over-controlling parental behavior can shape a child's personality toward extremes, toward either a rebellious or codependent approach to relationships later. Permissive parenting is no better. We need to respond, but how? Below are some concepts and questions to help us determine whether our response is containing or controlling.  

CONTAINMENT -- Taking control without overpowering; teaching, leading and guiding; holding boundaries firmly but respectfully and consistently.

  • Address safety issues Is my child's (or someone else's) physical safety at risk?
  • Provide a safe place to experience & express emotions, wishes & thoughts, even when they differ from ours (i.e., designating a quiet place for the child to calm the upset; breathing together, having a calming ritual)
  • Seek to understand the unmet need your child's behavior is expressing. (i.e., using inquiry, active listening, patience, intuition, acceptance)
  • Deliver the message with a loving energy and a tone that conveys respect and unconditional acceptance of your child, while being direct and clear about what is expected.

CONTROL -- Comes out of the notion that we can control other’s behavior, and with the underlying belief that our children’s behavior is a direct reflection to the world of our effectiveness as a parent (this is nearly universal).   Control is where our unresolved pain manifests. Control is:

  • Reactive - An impulsive and often aggravated response delivered with frustration.  Often unconscious and directly rooted in unresolved childhood (or other) trauma.
  • Programmed in Childhood. For this reason, it is usually accompanied by a visceral reaction. Pay attention to your body's cues. 
  • Fear Based - Control urges us to focus outside of ourselves in an effort to calm the inner chaos, which is backward. When we focus on ourselves, we instantly regain control.
*Tip: Tune into the ticker-tape of thoughts, beliefs and reactions running through your head, especially when upset.  Identify the fear-based thought or belief, and argue against it.  Pretend you are an attorney presenting your case.  Come up with 3-5 pieces of hard evidence to support your case against the poisonous thought.

Containment vs. Control

Win/Win vs. Win/Lose
Love vs. Fear
Flexibility vs. Rigidity
Acceptance of what is vs. Focus on what “should” be
In-control vs. Out-of-control
Self Awareness & Self Control vs. Other Focus & Other Control
Adult's Approach to Conflict vs. Child's Approach to Conflict
Loving Guidance vs. Domination

A: Be a model of the characteristics you want your children to develop.  
Invest your time and energy in creating positive connection with your children.
Lead communication toward a win/win solution and a new agreement.  
Keep your eye on the big picture - this too shall pass.
Get support when you need it.