Contemplations on Control: How we make (good) decisions

Some people have trouble making good decisions. Boundaries are a challenge and saying “no” feels impossible. For others, they are quite comfortable making decisions. They might even enjoy telling others what choices they should make. Parents often feel a need to tell children what to do all the time. They believe that children can’t or won’t make a good choice. As we contemplate the elements of control in our lives, we want to find that balance between laissez faire attitudes and acting like a control freak. 

Making choices, even bad ones is a way to feel powerful. Many children and adults will act in the opposite manner just to feel some form of power in their own lives. Authority figures are seen as untrustworthy, no matter how experienced or wise they might be. That isn’t the point for a person who feels powerless. Control and the defiance that often comes with it feels like the only way to find power or freedom.

We value the freedom that can come through choices. It is one of America’s highest personal values. Unfortunately, freedom to do anything one wants, whenever one wants to do it, and not expect any real consequences is not true freedom. True freedom comes when we exercise self-control. 

Ask Dr. Seuss, if you don’t believe me:

You have brains in your head,

You have feet in your shoes,

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

Sound advice. The trick is choosing the right direction! 

Parents want children to listen and obey because they have more experience dealing with the complexities of life. Children want to assert their control in order to better know themselves. There are specific stages where this most evident, like in 2-3-year-old toddler stage and the 13-17 years of adolescence. The reason these ages and stages are so fraught with power struggles is because the child is going through rapid brain growth, hormonal changes, and social/emotional demands. That requires a lot of self-assertion in order to master it all. 

As I have already described in other blog posts, a parents job should resemble a coach more than a director. While this isn’t always possible or practical, it is the healthier approach to successful parenting. A parent TELLS a child what to do. Children can’t become responsible human beings or eventual adults if they rely on parents what to do. Parents can expect more self-responsibility and problem-solving if they don’t let the child make choices. 

A parent coach offers choices in order to empower children to learn from their choices. Isn’t this how we all learn? Of course, understanding this approach and performing it in the heat of the “battle” is difficult but that isn’t a reason not to use it. The good news is that the drive to choose is built into our nervous systems. You don’t have to tell a child to have an opinion. They already have one. You don’t have to model how to prefer for one type of food over the other or one game over the other. The child just does this naturally. Coaching allows us to direct what is already inborn. Parents should let it work to their advantage!

Forcing control, although at times necessary, shouldn’t be our primary parenting plan. Parents can give choices for things they approve of…usually two is good. If the child wants a third option, and they will, simply repeat the two choices and when the situation becomes a game, and it will, make the choice for the child. This is where parents can be direct and assert their wills. Pick your battles well in other words.

Researchers on control like to use the words “agency” or “self-efficacy”. I guess it sounds more clinical. The more agency we use in life the more power-full we feel. The more good decisions we make, the more confident we are to try new and more challenging things. Good deciders set bigger goals in life than bad deciders. They get along better with other people, can be better team players, have higher academic achievements and work ethics, and they are healthier and happier people overall. 

That all sounds good until you make a few bad choices and start to believe that you don’t have the ability to make a good choice, ever! People who go through trauma often feel this way. Depression is a common hallmark of making bad choices or having gone through bad things. This is what researchers call “locus of control”. Someone with an internal locus of control believes they are the cause of a successful outcome. An extern locus of control refers to things happening by chance or luck. After a traumatic event or series of events, a person can feel helpless and have an external locus of control. If something good does happen, it is random and accidental.

It is possible to have an “illusion of control” where someone feels they can master things they really can’t. They don’t have an overdeveloped internal locus of control and may take on too many tasks or make claims of being able to accomplish tasks that are too difficult. They are ready to accept responsibility for success but blame others/events for failures. This illusion prevents them from really learning how to be successful in life. Much of wisdom comes from making mistakes and then trying a new approach next time. 

The answer to all of this may be acceptance of reality. This is a philosophical idea and spiritual practice of letting go of expectations and desires that create most of our on-going suffering. When something happens that we don’t want or we don’t get what we do want, we suffer. The truth is everyone does this and everyone suffers. Acceptance allows us to be aware of it and adapt. We don’t blame others for our mistakes or at least, our part of a situation/problem. We are humble and try to find the wisdom of our failures. We don’t allow others to control us and we don’t use control to deal with anxiety. We simply allow what is to be and find the truth in the experience. As the Bible says, “Truth sets us free” (John 8:32). 

Acceptance isn’t another form of helplessness, however. We accept our situation but continue to hope for change. Christians, for example, trust that God’s will, however difficult or uncertain, is the better choice over their own personal will. When the two wills conflict, we submit to God’s will. Continue to control people and events, in order to get what you want, alienates family and friends, and puts tension between your reality and your desire to have what you want. This tension will result in negative emotions and behaviors. Learning to accept and let go will allow using that energy to make the best of your situation. Now that does require self-control!

“Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. This will miraculously transform your whole life.” Eckhart Tolle

“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” William James

“The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor with that he might have done you a greater one.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

>> Learn more about “Acceptance and Change” in our Freedom From Anxiety course at http://FamilyHealer.tv

>> Invite Ron Huxley to speak at your next event by contacting him at rehuxley@gmail.com or 805-709-2023. 

Have a Total Family Makeover: From the Inside Out!

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You could spend hours and a LOT of money on attempting to “fix” everyone…You could keep on trying to control, manipulate, threaten, bribe, or just shut down emotionally. 

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What To Do When Children Lie?

children-lying

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

It can really upsets a parent when their children lie. What want our children to be honest and always tell the truth. When they don’t it can feel embarrassing and feel like we have failed as a parent

The “truth” is that there may be many reasons for a child to lie. Some of the common causes may be due to an active imagination, desire to please you, fit in socially,  avoid unpleasant or boring tasks, or seeking (negative) attention. Parents can cope with a child who lies by following these simple parenting tools:

1. Provide opportunities for your child to express his imagination without lying.

2. Point out the differences between fact and fantasy.

3. Practice telling the truth yourself so that your child does not imitate you lying.

4. Don’t overreact to lying. Point out the need to tell the truth and allow your child to do so without feelings ashamed.

5. Don’t push for confessions. These usually lead to bigger lies and more punishment.

6. Look for ways your child can get what they want without lying and reward him for not lying.

Lastly, parents have to set a good example. If parents are caught, by their children, in telling lies, then they will believe it is OK. Parents: “Practice what you preach!”

Punishment is outdated…or is it?

Punishment is outdated…or is it it? How faith-based families discipline their children

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

One of the most frequently used methods of parenting is spanking. Shocking? Yes, but parenting polls continue to report that parents “fall back” to old habits of when they where parented. In the past, American society advocated for parents to spank their children. A sign of good parenting used to be if you spanked your disobedient child or not. Today, the American attitude is just the opposite. If a parent spanks their child, they are considered abusive and threatened to be reported to the authorities.

The reason for this shift in parenting methods is obvious: Too many parents spank out of anger and hurt their children. There is another reason for not spanking that is a lot more reasonable: it isn’t effective and there are so many other parenting tools that can be used. Long-term, negative outcomes of spanking is delinquency, substance abuse, and psychological problems.

Punishment and Discipline is not the same thing. Punishment refers to threatening, hitting, or using harsh treatment that might include prolonged isolation, humiliation and shaming behaviors. Discipline is about teaching or guiding children in the right direction so that they can be responsible people.

Christian parents use the verse, from the Bible, that “whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24. This verse has nothing to do with hitting children. It is all about guiding children and being a moral leader and example to them.

Another verse states: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4. Parents that use punishment do not produce children who feel happy and confident. It teaches them to be sneakier and models force as an answer to problems.

If parents today really thought about their own upbringing, they would remember that spanking didn’t help them. Many would tell stories that were terrifying and painful, emotionally and physically. Why use that method to parents our own children? Better to find tools that work.

Get a special report on the 4 Reasons Children Misbehave and how you can redirect your child to be responsible and fun to be around. Click here now!

Parents: The Source of Children’s Re-sources

 

Children must have a source of satisfaction and security in order for them to re-source their ability to manage themselves and their emotions. A positive parental source responds to a child’s need and satisfies it. This cycle of distress and restoration builds trust, security, and connection. Fortunately, parents only have to be “good enough”. There is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child. There are many opportunities in parenting to prove you are a trustworthy “source” of support. This gives children the chance to “re-source” that support in themselves.

Fight Now or Fix Later? A Parenting Tool to Manage Defiant Behavior

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Parents can diffuse defiance by delaying actions or a response. Conflict is inevitable in a family. Parents and children will not always see things eye-to-eye and arguments may pop up. If this becomes a regular hassle, this may mean that children are starting to consider it a game for how to guarantee mom or dad’s attention. Of course, it is negative attention, but that can make it all the more challenging to eliminate. 

Who says that mom or dad have to fight with the child? Why do you HAVE to reply to talking back or rude comments or annoying demands right now? A favorite Love and Logic tool of mine is Delaying Replies. Instead of fighting now, say: “I love you too much to argue with you…” or “I will have to do something about this behavior or attitude but not right now.” Delaying allows parents to cool off and consider a consequence or reply in a clear headed way and gather the support of the other parent. 

Try this Parenting Tool next time your child is defiant with you: 

Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition)

(affiliate link)

What else is Ron reading? Click here to see…

FACT: 25% to 30% of “normal” families have emotionally insecure children — and are observed to need improvements in the emotional availability of their parent-child relationships.

The emotional security of children plays a significant role in shaping their lives — from their personality, confidence, success in future relationships, and mental health — as they grow. It is a widely accepted fact that children from loving and caring households go on to become well-adjusted adults, while children from abusive, broken, or neglectful homes often grow up to have serious emotional or even mental problems. But it is less well known that many concerned, caring, and well-meaning parents are still observed to need improvements in their relationships so that their children can grow up to be emotionally securely attached (vs. insecurely attached) to their parents. 30% of normal, benign relationships are found to be on the lower end of EA in our research studies.

When parents are emotionally reachable and are able to ‘read’ the emotional signals (through body and verbal language based on attachment and EA principles) of their kids, the children will perform better in a wide variety of situations.

Source: http://www.emotionalavailability.com

Parenting and the Serenity Prayer: Acceptance and the Peaceful Home

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

If parenting could be summed up in a prayer, that prayer might be the “Serenity Prayer”:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is part two of a 5 part series exploring the essential points of this prayer and how it can help parents find grace and peace in their family relationships.

Acceptance and the Peaceful Home:

Finding serenity in our lives is a matter of achieving balance. This balance can be precarious at times as parents deal with the many stressors of work and family life. Parents might look to outside sources for this place of peace. They might even hold others responsible for upsetting that peace, blaming them for the hurts and rejections they might have caused in themselves and their home. The cause of this imbalance might include drugs, alcohol, affairs, gambling and many other vices. It can also come from non-malicious sources that we don’t have control over, including job loss, divorce, death, illness, etc.

In order to create lasting peace in the home, we have to look inward to our values and beliefs. Parents can identify a “value system” that keeps them focused and motivated despite all the outside trials and tribulations. These beliefs will guide parents behaviors, help them make choices, and keep them intentional in their efforts to support one another.

The deepest beliefs come from our identity about what it means to be a good or bad parent. It is hard to create peace if we feel like a bad parent. We will try to avoid doing what we feel a “bad parent” would do and work to do what we belief a “good parent” should be doing. Of course, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. This often occurs because parents belief that being good is the same as perfect. They hold themselves and their family members to a standard that is impossible to maintain. When they fail and fail they will, they think they are now a bad parent.

The reality is that there is no such things as a perfect parent or a perfect child. It is important to have the courage to be an imperfect parent who raise imperfect children and can still love one another through our mistakes. This road of unconditional love and imperfect relationships will require a constant review of our values and a lot of forgiveness, of ourselves and our family members.