It feels good to have power, or to believe we are in control. And it can feel debilitating when we feel we have lost our power or control. For some, it feels like a constant battle. As humans (young and old) we crave control. However, in life, and especially parenting, it’s important to focus on letting go.
“Control is the master addiction. Drop it. Let go. Let life be what it is.”
We can choose to fight for control or we can choose to let go. But how?
What you can control
The first step is acknowledging what is in your control. Sometimes this is called your “circle of control.” Steven Covey popularized the idea of recognizing our circle of control, circle of influence and circle of concern.
To start, I encourage you to think about what is in your control, if possible write it down.
What are things that you have control over right now?
What you can’t control
Now, think about what is outside of your control. Typically these are things we are concerned about or care deeply about but we have no power over. Steven Covey called this the “Circle of Concern.”
In parenting, the biggest struggles I help parents with are actually things out of the parent’s control, ie: potty training, struggles with eating, and getting kids to go to sleep.
In reality, there are many things we cannot control, even though we might try hard to do so. It’s important to recognize that you cannot control when/if you child uses the toilet. You cannot make a child eat or fall asleep. Only they can control their bodily functions and actions. You have an influence on all of these, but not control.
Again, I encourage you to take a moment and write down the things that are out of your control.
What you can’t control, even though you might want to!
Focusing Your Energy
Take a moment to acknowledge the many areas in your life you have control. Now, focus on your day. Are you focusing your energy and time on the things you have control over or are you using energy and time on things you can’t control?
You want to focus on things you can control (your responses/behaviors) and influence (what you offer to eat, creating nurturing routines).
In parenting this might look like:
|Focusing your energy on:||Instead of:|
|A night time routine to create a calm environment||Trying to get your kid to fall asleep. You can’t control when/if they fall asleep|
|Offering support to help your child with their homework||Trying to force, threaten or bribe them to do their homework. You can’t control if they do it.|
|Providing a healthy meal and engaging dinner conversation||Trying to bribe or threaten your child into eating. You can’t control if or how much a child eats.|
|Responding calmly when your child is upset or angry||Trying to get your kid to “knock it off” by telling them to stop, threatening or yelling at them. You can’t control how they act.|
|Calmly getting your child’s attention and focusing on what you say.||Trying to get your child to listen to you. You can’t control if your child listens.|
Once you are able to focus your energy to what you can control and influence, it’s time for the final step. (Cue a really chilly princess song here). Sometimes people will call this picking your battles. I prefer to consider it acknowledging your power and staying in your circle.
Let it go.
Sometimes amazing things happen when you do.
Sometimes it may feel unsettling to let go of control. Depending on your personality, family or origin, or values this can be really hard in overwhelming or triggering moments. Starting with small things or reaching out for additional support can help.