Parenting Beyond Control

By Bob Lancer

No matter what you learn about parenting, or what new “trick” you try in your efforts to control your child’s behavior, you are bound to experience frustrating limits to your power. We find this happening in every important area of our lives, and parenting is no exception. When you come to accept this, you have made a healthy decision, for you will stop blaming or seeing your child or yourself as inadequate or as a failure and learn how to live at least a little better with the way things are.

At a parenting seminar that I presented a while back, I asked for each parent’s definition of parenting success.  One gentleman offered this not untypical response: “My child doing what I ask, when I ask it.” Such an impossible, yet common expectation dooms that parent to a sense of failure that he probably projects onto his child.

There is no “magic” or “secret” that gives you absolute power over your relationships and circumstances.  We all inevitably confront the limitations of our personal will. Learning how to accept that boundary with trust, rather than fight it with blame, anxiety, and frustration, constitutes a major step into more enlightened, responsible, fulfilling parenting.

Humanity’s efforts to demonstrate absolute power over life has led us along an unsustainable path of conflict with nature.  Working with nature, instead of against nature, involves a willingness to trust what lies beyond our calm, compassionate control. We simply have to learn how to live wisely and well with risk and uncertainty or lose our minds and our way in an impossible power-struggle against our lives.

When you choose to trust instead of fear you choose life. Nature, including your physical body, flourishes when you do the very best you can in the moment with calm, confidence, and compassion. The moment you slip into anxious, frustrating, unhappy conflict with the limits of your control, you begin wearing down your body, your morale and your effectiveness. Since children learn from the example that we set, this leads them to engage in similarly unhealthy power-struggles.

Accepting the limits of your control does not argue against seeking to learn and implement better ways of relating with our children. We can always do better for better results. To enjoy better experiences and results with your children, pay closer attention to what you do to cause, or at least to contribute to, the frustrating, unhappy power-struggles you experience.  Relate with every parenting episode as an opportunity to learn how to parent more effectively with loving peace and poise.  You do not want to have work so hard that you harden your heart and lose the joy of life and the appreciation for the sacredness of your child.

We parents either grow up or blow up. The best that we can do is to make more and more of the influence that we have by continuing growing ourselves. At some point, though, we have to choose between faith and fear in what lies beyond our calm, balanced, loving ability to control. Our children do not need us to hurry and worry; they do best when we believe in them, in ourselves, and in the greater power in charge.