We want to break the cycle of controlling people. There are two ways. One is to parent in a positive, effective way. The other is to become aware of how to be a positive, happy person, how we were parented, and to re-parent ourselves. All of the following “parenting” techniques/attitudes can also be used in adult romantic relationships, and with yourself.
A basic: The opposite of control is operating within choices and options. An effective parent (person) gives choices and options and teaches a child (themselves) to operate within those choices. They know that there is usually more than one way to do things. A parent of an older child/teen teaches problem solving/exploring alternatives/decision making ; teaches the child to think and decide on options; children of controllers do not learn to think and make decisions because the parent makes all the decisions, does all the “thinking”; gives orders and gives no choices/options. Controller: there is only one way: my way, and you will do it; In a relationship, be open to ideas, options with your partner. Explore options, Enjoy it. Let go of, “My way is the best way; she comes up with other ideas because she doesn’t like mine; she is challenging me”.
A basic: You may have heard (you may say), “you make me so mad”. (controllers are angry/mad a lot); It is very important that you know that no one, nothing, can “make” you mad. Someone does or says something; you perceive it negatively: you “get” mad. You choose to be mad. We choose to perceive things negatively. Controllers perceive LOTS of things/people negatively. They are negative people, looking for something to criticize. Children of a controller soon develop a need to have power over you (the controller), because they see that you value power, so they learn to value power also. One way to feel powerful as a child is to “make a parent mad”. They have made you mad. They have power over you. So if you are a controller this behavior will show up in your child: they will value controlling you also (misbehaving to get power over you). So, in a discipline situation, it is actually ineffective to “get mad” at a child (yell, etc); It accomplishes nothing. If it is done a lot, the child learns that they can “make you mad”; control you. The most effective thing to do in a discipline situation is to use calm communication and consequences (more later). We must learn to act thoughtfully in situations; not react; As adults, we choose to either be calm and communicative, or to “get mad”, yell, lose control, (with children and with partners).
Encouragement is one of the most effective tools we can learn to use in relationships. We want to use encouragement instead of rewards and praise. Using praise and punishment builds a child who does not have a strong conscience (inner-control). Your controlling parent is your conscience. They praise you when you do well: “You are only good when I say so” . Praise is reserved for things well done, the best etc. (judged according to you). It is vague and unspecific “Good! Great job!” Encouragement is very specific. With praise children may come to believe that their worth depends upon your opinion. Encouragement is used for strengths, assets, effort, qualities, attitudes, improvement, trying hard, goodness, kindness, contribution, joy, having fun, sharing, caring, learned a lot, learning a new skill, creativity, patience. Things that we can encourage (in children and in ourselves) are: the ability to control anxiety, motivate ourselves, be persistent. Encouragement teaches values and what’s important. Encouragement motivates a child to want to do better. Praise teaches a child to try to get the parents approval. “I did not feel good about my work until someone told me I was doing good”. So controlled children fish for praise, “Did I do good?” A child needs to be able to tell himself that he did well, was responsible. Rewards teach a child to say “what’s in it for me?” not, “what makes me feel good and makes me worthwhile.” Reinforce positives by rewarding with non-material incentives: a celebration, an outing with the family, friends. Do not reward with food. As adults we then reward and punish ourselves with food . Material things are easy to see and value. Non-material concepts and values are not easy to “see”; they are felt: love, kindness, happiness….The child needs to feel good about themselves, inside, not be dependent upon the parent’s ( or other’s) approval. Then the child develops self-talk: “ I am competent; I am doing well…”. A controlling parent gives praise only for things extremely well done (or done to their standards). Otherwise, the child gets lots of criticism while doing tasks. A child needs to develop their own standards. A controller tends to give praise with one hand and take it away with the other: “That was good BUT…… (this is what you did wrong)”.
Be a “good-finder” in people. Find the good in people/children, and in yourself. Controllers find the “bad”, mistakes, faults in people and in beauty. This evolves back to attitude and perceptions: seeing the beauty and positives in people and things. Positive people find positives and the good in you, in the world. If you were raised by negative parents, it takes a lot of focus, work, and awareness to change your focus to positives. During your day, when with people: children, adults, partners, make sure you speak, feel more positives with those people than negatives. In the beginning, it is good to actually count how many times you say something negative, and how many times you feel/say something positive. With dates/partners notice how many times your “love” says negatives versus positives to you, about you, about others, about the world, during the day.