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When is control too controlling

post #1 of 105
Thread Starter 
Thre has been a very lively thread about food, eating and control. It really got me thinking so I posed another question regarding the whole isse of control. This is what I posted

[QUOTE]I read in another post (paraphrasing here) that not giving your kids certain food is a control issue and if they want to eat something they should be able to have it. Maybe it is controlling but I am sorry just because my son is mesmerized but the Clifford box of crap he sees in the grocery store doesn't mean I am going to given in and buy it. But I also buy very few foods he can't eat (booze, wine, my husbands disgusting power bars) so he is rarely denied any food in his own home. I also don't let him watch videos 24/7, watch any commercial TV or play on the computer whenever he wants. I don't let him hit people, use my sharp chefs knife (even though he really, really wants to!) or run with scissors. At 3 I make those choices for him. I realize all these are controlling him but is that necessarily bad? Am I doing more long term damage then if I did let him eat junk or watch TV all day? As he gets older he will have more control. I’ll teach him to use the knives, to make his own TV choices and choose when he wants to watch. I guess I just don’t understand how you can raise a child with out any control?[/QUOTE]

I know that my feelings have changed in the last 3 years and I know they will change more over the next 3. I foresee today that with every passing year I will be letting go of more and therefore controlling less of son's life. But I just don't see how I can not, in good conscience control certain things in his life. A few thing I know I will NOT compromise on TODAY or in the in the immediate future are

1) Commercial TV. Just won't happen
2) Soda, Gatorade, Kool-Aid and the like
3) Unsupervised computer time
4) Power Ranger toys and the like.
5) He can not use my sharp chef knives (but neither can my husband )
6) High sugar processed foods like the aforementioned Clifford snacks

Will some of things change over time? Sure but not today.

What a bout a veggie mom who doesn’t let her child eat meat? Or as one other mom mentioned a kosher mom who won’t let her kids eat non kosher foods. Or mom who say only classical and no rock and roll?

So again I ask the question: Are we doing more long term damage when we control what our children eat, watch, read, listen to or play with? And where do we draw the line?
post #2 of 105
Can't answer now, but wanted to sign on.
post #3 of 105
Originally Posted by HollyBearsMom
5) He can not use my sharp chef knives (but neither can my husband
ROFL. After my DH cut a chunk out of his thumb using my super sharp sewing scissors, he declared that no one was allowed to touch them except mommy! He is afraid of them now and has decided that sewing is extremely dangerous.

So again I ask the question: Are we doing more long term damage when we control what our children eat, watch, read, listen to or play with? And where do we draw the line?
I wonder about this too. I tried TCS for a while but ultimately it did not feel right to me. It was frustrating for all of us and the day I went from trying to find a solution that everyone could agree to to screaming at my kids because they were driving me crazy, I decided that being more authoritarian would be better. My kids are less frustrated with each other and with me, and since I'm not spending my engergy trying to keep them happy with everything that happens, I have more patience and energy.

None the less, the time I spent learning about TCS deeping effected my thinking. I do believe that coercising children all the time is bad for them. My children do great with me have a short list of things that I am very clear about. It works best for us to have a balance. I put a lot of thought into everything that I feel the need to control for my kids. I think the list is going to be different for different families, but feel that keeping it short should be a common goal.

My kids have far more control over their lives than most kids their ages, yet there are things that I am very cut and dry about.
post #4 of 105
I would like to take a stab at answering this from my point of view. I was raised by a very controlling set of parents who made many decisions for me based upon their own needs. I was put to bed early (CIO'd) so they could have alone time. I was fed what they ate, whether I wanted it or not. I was told what to wear and what records to listen to and what sports to play until I was a teen and rebelled big time. Long story there....

Anyway, dh and I are trying to raise dd differently but of course we are making some decisions for her. She is only 21 mos. We are choosing to keep her safe and healthy and making decisions in her best interests, not ours. She cosleeps and still nurses because that is what she wants and it is good for her and it does not hurt us to keep doing it. She is kept away from knives and poisons and sugary foods and moving vehicles (etc, etc) because that is in her best interest. Sometimes, we go home from the park earlier than she wants because it is freezing outside and getting dark, even though she wants to stay. Do you get my drift? We control some decisions for her to keep her healthy and safe. As she gets older, we will let her participate more and more in the decision making process so that she can learn from first hand experience what it means to be responsible.

If you never make any decisions for your child and let him or her run the show, you run the risk of them controlling you later on. I used to teach fifth grade and I had a student who's mother had never controlled him in any way and always let him do what he wanted. He was a nightmare to teach, refused to work when he felt like it, yelled at other students who did things he did not like, threw tantrums all the time. To make matters worse, his mother washed her hands of all of this because she did not tell him what to do. Poor kid ended up in counseling at divorced dad's expense after he had a blowup with mom and refused to live with her over some little thing. This is a very extreme case but I think it makes my point that as parents we have to make some decisions for our children that are in their best interests.
post #5 of 105
I think the hardest thing is finding your own place to stand, even knowing that you are likely to move. It seems like being a strict parent or being a lenient parent is ok just pick something and try to do it consciencely. Have a plan. If you feel like controlling your kids food is working, don't let anyone talk you out of it. I hate the idea that there is a right way to do this. It is such a personal relationship. There are lots of ways to teach our children to eat healthy as adults, to make good choices when we aren't there to control them.
post #6 of 105
I think that parents do have a right to control certain things to protect their kids or their family life.

My thoughts on eating are well known (see other thread) but I should mention that no food is off limits in our house. We have what others would consider junk. But this is served as dessert after a regular meal.

My kids are allowed soda in place of dessert, if that is what they want (though they seldom choose to do this). They also get it on "special occassions" (birthdays, major holidays, big family parties).

I have many other rules that many woulld consider control.

My kids have a bed-time (they can go to sleep when they want, but they have to be in bed.)

They have to do their homework within 1/2 hour of getting home.

There are many others. I just don't have a problem with this.

post #7 of 105
I do feel that it is our job as parents to have some control as we need to guide and teach our children based on knowledge that we have gained. Giving up control to let them eat/drink/do whatever doesn't make sense to me in today's world since there is so much available to them that would not have been in the past. We have to use our experience and insight to help them to understand the world and make informed and educated decisions. That starts with having some control before they fully understand everything. That said, drawing the line can be difficult. We make a lot of decisions based on personal preference, cultural norms, religious values, ethical values, etc. When it comes to TCC (which I found fascinating) I remind myself that the research was done in a setting that was isolated from cultural differences, multiple social influences, media, etc. Not that I don't think there is a lot to be gained from the info in the study, but we have to work w/ in the society in which we live and acknowledge the tremedous differences in the influences up on our children. Interesting question and I look forward to hearing what others say.
BTW, I totally agree that my views have changed over the years and will continue to change. I feel that I am much more mature now that I can acknowledge that I will change as time goes on. When I was a middle school teacher (before having children) I believed in a lot more control than I do now. Now I look at it more as informed guidance.

edited to correct TTC to TCC (The Continuum Connection) also to add I posted again below to admit my ignorance and confusion.
post #8 of 105
Okay I just want to clarify, I think

TTC is trying to concieve

and TCS is taking children seriously

I was reading this thread thinking "What in the world does ttc have to do with this topic??" until I realized what you were talking about...I do this with abbreviations all the time too.

I am fairly sure that open TCS debates aren't kosher. I *think* there is a support thread for TCS in finding your tribe.

But I think the topic in this thread is great and I can't imagine it would be considered a TCS debate unless it evolves into that.

Maybe a mod can clarify.
post #9 of 105
Cool--thanks HollyBear'sMom!

This is one of those interesting things for me because I always assumed that you had to have lots of limits and controls on kids for them to turn out OK--like people who could function and live in society. Swear to god, when my son was 18 mos. or so I was looking for Toddlerwise at the bookstore. They didn't have it and I ended up buying The Discipline Book by Dr. Sears.

Anyway, I started coming to MDC I found some people saying that they didn't limit all sorts of things and they didn't control things I thought you had to control, and their ideas made sense and resonated somewhere inside me. So, I did more reading and more searching and starting lifting some of my controls. And I can't tell you how freeing and wonderful it has been! I'm looking forward to hearing other people's experiences.

As a starting place, here are some of the ideas about lifting control that have really been meaningful to me:

Jan Hunt
Regardless of how carefully we phrase it, when we tell a child that a certain activity is required, we imply that it must be so unpleasant or difficult that he would never want to do it on his own; otherwise, why are we going to the trouble of requiring it? No one has ever required a child to eat ice cream!
Thomas Gordon
When one person tries to control another, you can always expect some kind of reaction from the controllee. The use of power involves two people in a special kind of relationship - one wielding power, and the other reacting to it.
Sandra Dodd
Without choices, they can't make choices. Without choices they can't make good choices OR bad choices. In too many people's minds, "good" is eating what parents say when parents say (where and how and why parents say). That doesn't promote thought, self awareness, good judgment or any other good thing.

As with other magical sacrifices some people make to become "good parents," some parents prohibit sugar. I've seen very bad things come of that. And as magic, it doesn't work any better than the magical sacrifice of plastic toys, or of TV, or of video games, or of wearing clothes with logos on them. Those are lame attempts at magically assuring that a child will be peaceful or healthy or creative. What they tend more often to do is give children reason to be sneaky, and depending on the parental presentation or justification of the restrictions, can help the child learn early on that the parents aren't as bright as they would like.
Someone (sorry not to be able to give proper credit!!) on the unschooling yahoo group posted this the other day--I liked it a lot!
Coercion breeds subversion.

Kids who are repeatedly told what to do and when at the expense of their own internal
logic either become complacent rule followers to appease their imposing superiors or they become adept "beat the system" subverts and rule breakers.
post #10 of 105
I don't think I control that much, but let's see...

Food used to be anything goes - if she asked for it and it was in the house, she got it, even if it was ice cream for the third time before noon. We started limiting it because her diapers were just horrible to deal with! So we decided dessert only once a day and only after dinner, and also she can only have chips or crackers and juice or soda once a day.

TV - We also don't do commercial TV but she never asks to watch it anyway. I don't know how we'll handle it when she asks. Recently I didn't want her to watch Pocahontas because of all the stereotypes, but she picked it out herself, so I decided to let her watch it once and then I took it back.

Friends - not an issue yet. I don't want her playing with rough rowdy types or those from bad neighborhoods. And I'd really rather she have girls for friends : but wouldn't try to stop a friendship with a boy.

Toys - When she gets stuff for her birthday/Christmas that I can't stand, such as noisy electronic stuff or stuffed animals that are TV characters, I just tell her it has to stay in her room.

Chores - not required. If she won't pick up her toys I tell her we just won't get out more toys. If she still won't do it, I do it for her. I don't mind.

I think to err on the side of caution, less control is best for us. I don't want her to feel like we are infringing on her. I think her opinions and desires are just as important as mine.
post #11 of 105
Where I am about control:

I grew up with inappropriate controls on my behavior. At one point when I was a teenager, my mother told me, "I don't love you unconditionally, I will only love you if you do what I want."

I know, I shouldn't laugh at that. It's painful that she was like that. That's what I'm NOT going to do!

Here are my reasons to still think I am going to exercise control over my child:

1. I want to inculcate my values, I view that as part of my responsibility as a parent. Unfortunately I fear, having seen other parents in action, that this involves some degree of compulsion. I would really like my child to embrace my beliefs and values with joy, so I will extend them that way.

That's where I am now, anyway. I might change on that.

2. I believe that children attain self-control and self-discipline gradually, and I want my interactions with my child to be appropriate to his level of development. He doesn't want me to change his diaper right now. If I don't change him, he will get a rash. I know that and he doesn't, and it's okay for him not to like it when I change him, but it's not okay for me not to change him. Eventually he will learn to use the toilet. Eventually much later, nothing that happens with his body will be my business. Wisdom is realizing when that is!

3. I will admit that I privilege my child's needs over my own in the balance of needs in our family. But I think ideally every member of the family should get their needs met. I already see that I have to protect some property from my son's exploration. he needs to explore. I need my dh's record collection that he inherited from his dad to stay intact. Until I figure out a better way, I have to compel my son not to touch the records.

Or compel my dh to move the cabinet. Gently.
post #12 of 105
Okay, so a big duh! from me here. I was reading above and misread TCS as TCC and then I accidentally wrote TTC in my post So, sorry for making such a blunder and confusing people. I was basing my thoughts on The Continuum Connection. I hadn't read the debates on TCS. Can I ask why debates on that are not kosher here? Maybe I just need to check the finding your tribe forum for an answer. Direct me there if it is not cool to ask that here.
post #13 of 105
How about this: The problem with controls is when we use "a control" to put a conditions on our love.

I will only love/approves of you if you do XYZ my way.

There are times we set controls but we have to explain ourselves.

1. We eat this food because XYZ.
2. We don’t watch this because XYZ.

Some times we do have to make controls by using compromise. It snowed today. My daughter wanted to wear a spring shirt (I don’t know how it got in her drawer). I set a control you can wear that shirt if you wear this on top of it.

There is plenty of healthy food choices on the table. It is limiting options. Limiting options is not always bad, some kids do get overwhelmed. But along with it you have to teach nutrition.
post #14 of 105
I'm pretty anti-control. OTOH, I'm really pro-working things out, and pro-problem solving.

I find that controlling is sort of the shortcut approach to discipline - it's making the decision for the child. It takes longer, initially, to work through decisions together, to examine your own beliefs critically, and to allow your child to be an autonomous being. In the long run, though, you have a child who understands the reasoning and underlying issues behind these things, and makes well-considered decisions independently, even when you're not there to control her.

I don't advocate the "Yeah, whatever" approach, to be very clear. I advocate the," Hmmm, I'm concerned about X happening if you do Y" approach.

My child is free to eat whatever she wants, within our budget constraints, and she knows them as well as I do. If she ever really wants something, we get it. Usually we can negotiate a solution, like making homemade versions of expensive processed foods or going to the grocery outlet where they're cheap

If the issue is something that doesn't concern me, like what my child wears or how she cuts her hair or what color she dyes her hair or what music she listens to (as long as I don;t have to listen). I'll happily advice and share what I know. but those aren't my decisions to make, IMO.

Other issues, ones that affect me directly, we work out together.

post #15 of 105
I could have written Dar's post. (That happens alot LOL)

We are a TCS family, and big suprise... we are also pretty anti-control. My kids are free to watch commercial TV, any movies they want, play video games when they want, and eat whatever they want that we have available to us. We've learned about what different foods are/do, and how the body works more or less... the rest is up to them. We give share info, advice, concerns, and any wisdom we have that they are wanting on any given subject and that's it. We believe they are entitled to the same freedoms and respect we are as adults, and we have faith in their abilities.

This doesn't mean we don't guide them or caution them, it means we don't force or forbid. What that kind of lifestyle looks like and how it works changes and evolves over time and as the kids get older of course. I had to scoop up my toddling child against her will a time or two to prevent her from running into a busy street, and I did so because she was not yet capable of understanding why being in the street was dangerous. As they grow they can understand the info and the control isn't necessary. To be honest kids are smarter and more capable than they are given credit for IMO.

My kids choose their own hobbies, hairstyles, clothing, music, books... and I cannot think of a single reason why they shouldn't be able to.
post #16 of 105
My long term goal is to not be controlling with my kids. I've found some good information with anit-control parenting styles and I try to incorporated non-coercive parenting as much as possible.

I do have a problem with TV and food when it comes to control. Food, less so because I don't consider it control if we just don't have it in the house and when we do, it's usually a special occasion and DC can have what she wants. TV is a whole 'nother problem. I really feel that TV and video games are an addiction, which runs in her father's side of the family. I just don't feel comfortable with free range of the TV and I doubt that I ever will. OTOH, DC needs to figure out how to regulate that for herself at some point ~ I think I'll wait a few more years though.

I wonder if any of you controlled some things for younger children that you don't control now?
post #17 of 105
My "control" definately shifts as my kids get older. My eight year old is wise enough to know that sugar cereal for breakfast make her feel yukky- my 4 year old cannot.
I have a vegetarian house, I'm vegan. My kids can choose to eat meat when we're out if they want. My choice to become vegan came from my heart- I don't think it's the ONLY healthy way to eat- I want them to make that decision for themselves- not force it on them. So I won't take them to McDonalds, but if they go to a birthday party, or someone elses house- they can have what they choose.
Same with the sugar cereals, the blue "juice", the "fruit chews", and the green applesause....I sure am not buying it, and I tell them exactly why. My kids are very educated about sugar in particular, because all of us have very clear reactions to putting it in our bodies. They do know they are free to have it elsewhere, and I find usually they choose not to- they don't even really like it now. I feel like if I didn't have a little "control" in the beginning, they would be addicts, like so many Americans are. Actually now that I think about it, I feel like that isn't control over my kids, it's protecting them from these companys who prey on children. I have empowered them with knowledge.
As for everything else, TV, we only have a few channels, no cable, so they don't have a whole lot to watch anyway, video games are very new to us (we just got pac man, even I kinda like that! ) clothes- anything goes (as long as it's weather appropriate), music ( no swear words, but any style they like), friends (we have a diverse group) you get the point. I want my kids to be who they are, and know they are loved exactly the way they are.
post #18 of 105
Thread Starter 
I wonder if any of you controlled some things for younger children that you don't control now?
Well my son is only 3 but I still can think of things I controlled that I no longer do.

1) 100% fruit juice. Never had it till maybe 6 months ago. I still don't buy it but he can have juice boxes at school or at friend’s houses.

2) Candy. Rule was NEVER EVER EVER. Now if he goes to a b-day party or went trick or treating I let him eat what he wants that day.

3) Going down to the basement. Ok sounds weird but our basement is a disaster and just plain scary! I don't like to go there. The stairs are big blocks of stone, very steep and narrow. He now can come with me when before it was "off limits"

4) Free run of the house. We just took down all of our gates. Yeah! Before he had to be in the same room with me. Now he is free to roam the house. If only he answered when I called!!

The more I think about it the more I realize that the only things I really control are for (my perceived) safety and health reasons. As my son matures I am sure these "controls" will lessen and others will emerge.
post #19 of 105
I try to look at a bigger picture - the issue of eating is, to me, absolutely huge. I can't even equate it to video games or crappy toys because to me it is something that impacts your life several times a day forever. I want eating to be pleasant and done for the right reasons - not out of rebellion, not out of boredom, not out of spite. I want it to be done with joy and a feeling of control over what my DD puts in her own body. This is one of the reasons I feel that I must empower DD to make the right choices for herself.

I limit snacking when I have to - DD has difficulty deciding when she has had enough and does sometimes eat until she throws up. This is due to her sensory issues. I hate that I have to limit at all but it is sometimes necessary in her case (although not frequently).

I don't have junk in the house. I don't eat it therefore I don't buy it. To me, this is just a "family value" and not an issue of control. She is free to eat whatever we have in the house (except her daddy's Diet Coke). If I were a junk food eater, I would have it in the house and she would be able to eat it.

When she goes to friend's houses, she eats junk. When she trick or treats on Halloween, she gets candy. When she goes to a birthday party, she gets to eat cake. I would never make her feel that she isn't allowed to have these things because I truly believe that forbidden fruit is the sweetest.

The irony is that she doesn't crave these things very often at all. In fact just last Saturday we left a birthday party before the cake because she was tired (her decision).

I think the less important you make something, the easier it is to just incorporate into your life. I don't make food important. I make it as stress-free as possible.
post #20 of 105
I have to disagree, I think giving children too much control too early is asked too much.Children aren't born with a set of values in their mind and need to learn healthy eating habits.Saying this, I never force her to eat anything but only because she'd like a candy bar for every snack time doesn't mean I have to give her one in order to not be overly controlling.
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