Parents often ask me why their child isn’t responding to their requests in the way that they want or expect them to. It is moments like these that we have to stop and introspect, examining our own expectations and whether they are even feasible.
At times we think we can control all of the things our children do or don’t do. However, there is very little that is actually within our control. Control is an illusion.
We tend to overestimate our own ability to control people, events, or behaviors that, in reality, we have no influence over. What does it look like to separate what we can control and what we cannot? How do we accept the things that are not within our control? When we ask ourselves these questions, we begin to put things in perspective. Ultimately, this results in less disappointment, confusion, and frustration.
In order to move through these unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves and the world around us, we can examine what we do have control over. If we introspect, we find that we have control over a great number of things—things that relate to, depend on, and influence ourselves. Examples of such control include our routines, attitudes, responses, and expectations.
Once we examine our own control, it is important to move forward doing this in situations with others that we are faced with daily. Specifically, when we are presented with situations with our children, such as wanting our children to eat a healthy diet, we must examine our own assumptions and expectations and determine whether they are realistic and even feasible.
If you want your child to eat a healthy diet, you may serve them a vegetable at every meal and limit the amount of artificial sugar in the house. But to expect them to maintain this when you are not providing the meals or the items in the house (e.g., in the school cafeteria or a sleepover) would be unrealistic. Thus, we carefully examine the situation and bring awareness to our influence. Is this an area we have influence over? Is it within our control or not?
In this example, we have the ability to educate our children on healthy choices, if that is of importance to us. Ultimately it is up to the child to make those choices. The only thing we have control over is our ability to educate. The choice is theirs. When we relinquish this idea that we have control over such situations, we free ourselves from frustration, acknowledging our own limitations to lead and oversee our children.
Remember: the only thing you can control is your action and reaction. Additionally, educating our children without expecting or attempting to control their behavior allows them to feel autonomous. It’s a benefit for both them and you!
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