When we think about it, why would kids even want to be in control of everything? After all, the best part about being a kid is . . . adults make the decisions and assume overall responsibility for whatever happens.
Yet, I’ve met a lot of kids who think they are in charge of their life, their home—and even their parents—and they’ll work overtime proving that by trying to control every situation.
In my experience, this behavior came about for one or more of these reasons:
1) Kids with underdeveloped lower centers of the brain often experience a lot of failure when others are leading. That’s because those in control usually have no awareness of how to build into the structure (i.e. make subtle modifications) so that such kids can then easily comply and experience success.
So to avoid that dreaded sense of failure, some kids compensate by seizing control of the situation. They’ll insist on doing it “their way.” But their way also works best for their brain, and now makes it impossible to fail by not doing a task as others expect.
2) Kids take control because others (inadvertently) reinforce this distorted sense of power by giving a lot of attention to the negative behavior. Here, the child’s brain may actually register holding the whole family hostage (by refusing to do whatever, and thereby delaying everyone) as giving him a distorted sense of importance. It’s even better if family members become upset. Now he’s even controlling how they act! He’s center-stage as he proves that, again and again, he can turn a whole house upside down. And every time he’s allowed to do that, he further entrenches a brain map that reinforces he’s the boss.
3) Kids take control when they don’t trust those in charge to lead. If that’s so, then a key question to ponder is . . . how did those kids lose that trust in the first place?
Some variables that affect trust are: 1) As parents, we second-guess many of our decision; 2) We’re inconsistent with how we respond; 3) We focus more on the negative, without honoring the present gifts our child has to share; 4) We don’t regularly build into the structure to make it easy to comply.
So how do we help kids relinquish their need to control? We start by telling them that they are giving up the best part of childhood when they think they are the ones in charge. We point out how they’ve already lost so many years of their childhood by thinking they were the boss—and we don’t want them to lose any more. Bottom line: We don’t ever get to be a kid again.
In my experience, that kind of conversation really resonates with such kids. They’re not so keen on giving up childhood years that can never be regained.
However, that conversation won’t have any lasting effect if those in charge continue to do the reasons (above) that created this behavior in the first place.
So, instead of being resigned to thinking we have a “strong-willed” or “defiant” or “controlling” child, we can choose to view such kids as a mirror to what we’re not yet providing for them. We can pause and re-think what we may do differently that, in turn, will create a sense of security for our child.
Once that’s in place, I’ve yet to meet a child who did not willingly let go of the reins.