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Curious about 'control' as it relates to parenting - Page 6

post #101 of 117
Mammal Mama wrote:
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Is this a value or habit you want to pass on to your children? I can understand that sometimes it feels fun (and superior) to critique other people
Criticism does not have to be destructive. It's possible to say that a person is wrong and spell out why, without saying she is a total idiot or a bad person.

Now, the fact is that in my family (both growing up and now), criticism of other people's "errors" often IS snarky and insulting. Part of this is because we're very exacting, detail-oriented people who think through all our decisions (and this may be because we have brain power to spare; it's not fair to expect that all this thinking is equally easy for everyone), and part of it is because we spent so many years living under the pressure of a dominant culture with values different from ours. Sharing clever criticism of others is a bonding experience for us. That doesn't mean it's a nice thing to do. We should find better ways to manage our stresses and reinforce our values. You know your position is weak when you try to elevate it by knocking down the alternatives.

So, in the interest of being more positive people ourselves as well as setting a good example for our child, my partner and I try to turn our critiques as quickly as possible from "what's wrong" to "how to do it right," discussing the advantages of our value system rather than the disadvantages of others.

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So, do you feel you would've lost your parents' approval if you'd done some "silly" things without being able to "explain the value?"
After a point, yes. Not that they would have cut off contact with me or stopped loving me, just that they would have had less respect for my lifestyle. I don't see a problem with that. We have relatives whom we believe have made some poor choices about what to value. We love them dearly, we enjoy spending time with them, and we respect their right to live as they choose. But we don't APPROVE.

I have made three major choices in my adult life that conflict with my parents' values. (I'm not so much talking about "consumer" things here but other lifestyle decisions; only one of them has any direct relationship to consuming.) Fearing loss of their approval, I avoided discussing any of these things for years. Eventually I decided to tell them about one thing. They were very upset, and we had many lengthy discussions in which I tried to explain its value to me, and after about a year they accepted it and began to treat it like the value differences with other relatives. They found out about another of the things accidentally, with the same result. The third one remains a secret as far as I can tell. This is a choice/value/practice that I am very happy with myself, but the fact that my parents disapprove of it (whenever the topic of anyone else doing it comes up) is painful to me. I want them to be proud of me and think everything I do is wonderful.

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Should children always have to "explain the value" of every choice they make, in order to ensure their parents' support and approval? Or should support and approval be freely given?
Support is different from approval, and I'm not sure whether you mean emotional support or financial or what, so let's just set that aside. LOVE should be unconditional. I know that my parents love me even if I totally screw up. Dreading their disapproval is not the same as believing that they wouldn't love me if they knew. They will always love me. I'd like them to approve of everything I do and agree with me about everything, too, but what's really important is that we love each other and respect each other's right to live by our own values.

Should I have to explain those values? If I refuse to explain, they're not going to understand as well as if I do explain, and therefore their disapproval is likely to be stronger because of their interpretation of why a person would do such a "wrong" thing. Certainly this was true of the two important choices mentioned above: When I explained, and they quelled their objections long enough to listen, they learned that these choices that seemed so revolting and pathological to them were based on my reasoning from the same values they had taught me and reaching different conclusions because of my different experiences in life. They still didn't agree or really approve, but they understood much better. I don't OWE them explanations. But giving explanations is likely to work in my favor.

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And what if you hadn't explained the value, in a way that was satisfactory to them? What if your enjoyment of it was something you couldn't put into words? What if your indulgence had been more than "moderate?"
Then they wouldn't have approved, and I would have had to live with that. It's happened. It hurt. It made me re-evaluate whether the thing was really important. That was good for me. Much better than if they'd said, "You are forbidden to buy or wear acid-washed jeans ever again!" Much better than if they'd said, "Gee, acid-washing is environmentally irresponsible and creates damaged clothing that's hardly worth the money, but since you like it, honey, we'll buy it for you!"

Here's what happened with the acid-washed denim, by the way: The trend hit town when I was 13, and my parents were scathing in their scorn. I knew they had good points, but I liked the look of the stuff, and after a while I felt like the only kid in school who didn't have any. When I was 15, I bought one pair of acid-washed jeans. My parents said, "$20 for ruined clothes?! Well, if that's how you want to spend your money..." Within 3 months, the jeans had big holes in the knees. I began to hand-wash them. No comment from my parents. When the jeans ripped across the thighs, I wore them over hot-pink tights. My parents complimented me on this practical way to get more wear out of the jeans. A teacher sent me to the office to determine whether this was a violation of dress code; the principal decided it was not, and within a week I saw other girls wearing disintegrating jeans over tights. I reported this at the dinner table; my mom said, "You are a trend-setter!" The jeans were unwearable after 9 months. I came home from the mall and showed my parents my new jeans that were pale blue to start with and would be much more durable. They didn't rub it in.
post #102 of 117
I just think it's hard for most of us to feel loved and accepted by someone who disapproves of much of what we're doing. For instance, I know on some level that my mom loves me, but her continual criticism of everything I do differently from her, makes me feel kind of unloved and unaccepted.

As Alfie Kohn says in Unconditional Parenting, when children hear, "We love you, honey: we just hate your behavior" -- if this happens enough, the child's likely to start wondering, "Who's this elusive "me" you love, when you hate practically everything I do?"

While I appreciate the value of encouraging children to carefully think about what they're doing (though I do think they should have freedom to be spontaneous, and not to feel everything requires a great degree of thought), I'd rather they do this so they'll feel good about their choices -- NOT because they feel they have to justify everything to me, or I'll be hurt or disappointed.

And some choices can be the right thing at the time, even if they're not something you'd want for the long-term. The $20 for the acid-washed jeans wasn't $200,000, $20,000, or even $2,000. It didn't really make a dent in the lifestyle you're able to have now -- such as by burying you in a debt-pit you're still trying to dig your way out of.

I must say, I like the way your parents refrained from rubbing it in when your jeans fell apart so quickly, even if the "$20 for ruined clothes?" seems rather insulting. With my mom, anything she saw as an unwise purchase on my part, she treated as an unmitigated tragedy and she applied tremendous pressure for me to take it back.

To my mom, I think large sums of money are all made with pennies -- and this is true, but so burdensome to a young person to always have Mom standing by to critique every purchase, and (as it seemed to me at the time) to rain on every parade!
post #103 of 117
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Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
As Alfie Kohn says in Unconditional Parenting, when children hear, "We love you, honey: we just hate your behavior" -- if this happens enough, the child's likely to start wondering, "Who's this elusive "me" you love, when you hate practically everything I do?"
That is so interesting! I really must get my hands on Unconditional Parenting.

My mother always used (and still uses, and I'm nearly 28) the same formulaic question when asking me to do something: "Could you (insert chore/request here ) like a good girl?" Implying that the way I would have done it was not like a good girl would do it. And thereby implying that I myself am not a good girl, and have to do some thing like a good girl, and not like the girl that I am.

Now that I am older I call her on it each and every time. And she apologizes, but still does it. Old habits seem hard to break on her part.
post #104 of 117
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As Alfie Kohn says in Unconditional Parenting, when children hear, "We love you, honey: we just hate your behavior" -- if this happens enough, the child's likely to start wondering, "Who's this elusive "me" you love, when you hate practically everything I do?"
Sure, if it happens a lot. I didn't have these clashes with my parents very often. Most differences of opinion are not important enough to pursue, and most don't reach the level of HATING. "That behavior is not what we would do." is very different from, "We hate your behavior." The latter is something I've rarely heard from my parents, and when I have it's been a behavior I at least partially agreed was wrong and a big deal, like staying out too late at night without calling them.

Also, there is a difference between criticizing things other people do (even if they are things that your child might like to do) and criticizing what your child is actually doing. It sounds like your mom is very critical of what you are doing, uncomfortable with the idea that you may make different choices than she would, and unable to drop it. She's passed the point where you can learn something from hearing her reasoning and is into (at least, as it sounds to you) criticizing you just for being different.

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I'd rather they do this so they'll feel good about their choices -- NOT because they feel they have to justify everything to me, or I'll be hurt or disappointed.
Sure. One doesn't rule out the other, unless the child's value system is fundamentally opposed to the parents'.

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And some choices can be the right thing at the time, even if they're not something you'd want for the long-term. The $20 for the acid-washed jeans wasn't $200,000, $20,000, or even $2,000. It didn't really make a dent in the lifestyle you're able to have now
No, but it made a dent in my lifestyle at the time. $20 jeans=10 single records=5 movies=40 cans of soda=1 year of magazine subscription=1 month of dance class=2 nights of babysitting to earn that much money again. Was it worth it? Ultimately I decided it wasn't, but if I'd never tried acid-washed jeans I wouldn't have known.

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With my mom, anything she saw as an unwise purchase on my part, she treated as an unmitigated tragedy and she applied tremendous pressure for me to take it back.
I recall several times when my parents bought something for themselves or the family and then regretted it and stewed over it and finally took it back. I recall several times when I bought something for myself and then regretted it and my parents talked me through the process of deciding whether to take it back or make it do. But I can't think of a single time when they pressured me to return something I'd chosen for myself and was happy with. They might tell me bluntly that they disliked it or thought it was a poor value, but it was MY opinion that determined whether I got to keep it.

Lemurmommies wrote:
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My mother always used (and still uses, and I'm nearly 28) the same formulaic question when asking me to do something: "Could you (insert chore/request here ) like a good girl?" Implying that the way I would have done it was not like a good girl would do it. And thereby implying that I myself am not a good girl, and have to do some thing like a good girl, and not like the girl that I am.
for her and for you!
post #105 of 117
EnviroBecca, my family--parents and siblings--is a lot like yours, and the older I get, the more it grates on me. Fine, maybe in the grand scheme of things, they are smarter and/or more cultured than most people in America. It's just the constant self-congratulation--and criticism of everyone else--that gets under my skin. They do it in the same way--to amuse each other and to bond. I just feel more and more distant from it the more my world expands beyond the narrow world of my upbringing.

Now that I am married, my family includes a lot of people whose values and lifestyle are radically different from my parents', and I simply wouldn't be able to function in that aspect of my life if I was constantly telling myself how much better all my choices are/were than theirs.
post #106 of 117
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Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post
Part of this is because we're very exacting, detail-oriented people who think through all our decisions (and this may be because we have brain power to spare; it's not fair to expect that all this thinking is equally easy for everyone),
Another idea I'd like to throw out there is that some people who are equally intelligent, may choose to live more spontaneously and go with their feelings, and do some things that don't necessarily make sense analytically. Sometimes intelligent people realize they miss a lot when they only do what "makes sense."

For example, I once heard a story of a young woman who got pregnant out of wedlock, during a time (1950's or 1960's, I believe) when it was common for girls in this situation to put their babies up for adoption. She thought this was the right thing to do -- but when she held her newborn baby, she fell in love with her, and knew she couldn't give her up.

She was warned that "no man would ever marry her," and that she was ruining her life and the life of her child, but she went with her heart, anyway. And soon after met a good man who loved both her and her child.

I'm not saying it would have been the "wrong" decision if she'd ended up being single all her life -- just that the "experts" didn't really have all the information, they were obviously wrong in their prophecies about this young woman.

That's why I think it's so important to sometimes be willing to abandon rationality, especially when our heart is telling us something different. We're always growing and gaining new information, and we may very well find (as this mother did) that that new information (combined with more mature reasoning abilities) will show us we made the most analytically sound choice, after all.

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Support is different from approval, and I'm not sure whether you mean emotional support or financial or what, so let's just set that aside.
I was mainly referring to emotional support -- but during the time when children are dependent on parents for material needs, it's kind of hard to separate the two.

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LOVE should be unconditional. I know that my parents love me even if I totally screw up. Dreading their disapproval is not the same as believing that they wouldn't love me if they knew. They will always love me. I'd like them to approve of everything I do and agree with me about everything, too, but what's really important is that we love each other and respect each other's right to live by our own values.
Would you also say that love makes us open to learning from (and even allowing ourselves to be transformed by) the other individual?

Through getting to know my kids, I've gained an appreciation for some things I used to devalue -- such as computer games and Happy Meal toys -- after seeing the pleasure these things bring my children (and no, the toys don't all break: our laughing hyena from a few years ago still laughs).
post #107 of 117
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Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
Would you also say that love makes us open to learning from (and even allowing ourselves to be transformed by) the other individual?

Through getting to know my kids, I've gained an appreciation for some things I used to devalue -- such as computer games and Happy Meal toys -- after seeing the pleasure these things bring my children (and no, the toys don't all break: our laughing hyena from a few years ago still laughs).
I agree with this. Groovy Girls are my example. I mean, honestly, some of them are dressed like strippers; white go-go boots and lace minis, for heaven's sake. And all that psychadelic decor just makes me think of an acid trip. I wasn't about to ban them from the house, but I did raise an eyebrow. But my daughter doesn't have the same cultural associations that I do, and I think it's important to realize that. To her they are just dolls, and the clothes etc. are just fun, and different, and interesting, and creative, and come to think of it, that's actually pretty cool.
post #108 of 117
Good points about the need for humility and respecting of intuition. These are both things that can get lost when patting each other on the back for being so clever! They're important tools and can work together with thinking. IME, using intuition is not a matter of "abandoning rationality" but of allowing information from all parts of your brain to reach you.

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Would you also say that love makes us open to learning from (and even allowing ourselves to be transformed by) the other individual?
Of course. Parents learn from and are changed by children, as well as the other way around. All of us are always learning and growing.
post #109 of 117
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Originally Posted by Jescafa View Post
EnviroBecca, my family--parents and siblings--is a lot like yours, and the older I get, the more it grates on me. Fine, maybe in the grand scheme of things, they are smarter and/or more cultured than most people in America.
Well, so glad to here your views about most of us on this forum. Anyone care to pass the tea and scones?

This thread is getting way off topic. The first 4-5 pages were so enjoyable to read. It is supposed to be about control in relationship to various parenting styles. Now
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Originally Posted by Jescafa View Post
It's just the constant self-congratulation--and criticism of everyone else--that gets under my skin.
Allison
post #110 of 117
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Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post
IME, using intuition is not a matter of "abandoning rationality" but of allowing information from all parts of your brain to reach you.
So true! Especially since I think sometimes our intuition is leading us into areas where -- say, ten or twenty years from now -- we'd automatically go and perceive our behavior as rationally quite sound. Because of new information that wasn't available at the time. And possibly better reasoning abilities.

I'm reminded of an old Mothering editorial, where Peggy O'mara says parents don't always have time to wait 'til all the studies are in. Just think of all the concerns that were raised decades ago about vaccines, many of which are just now being acknowledged as true by the scientific community.

Sometimes we just have to go along with those parental hunches, even if everyone else thinks we're crazy. And listening to our kids will open us up to lots of important hunches we'd otherwise miss!
post #111 of 117
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Originally Posted by AllisonR View Post
This thread is getting way off topic. The first 4-5 pages were so enjoyable to read. It is supposed to be about control in relationship to various parenting styles.
And in what ways do you see it as now being off-topic? I perceive the recent posts as being totally about control in relationship to various parenting styles. Is it because some of us have been sharing about our relationships with our own parents, and talking about our own childhoods?

Honestly, I think the parents who use self-congratulation, and criticism of others, to have fun and to bond with their kids, are being very controlling even if they don't know it. Of course, I can't say I've been raising my kids totally free of that; I'm glad it's been mentioned because it makes me more aware that I need to look out for it in my own family interactions.

I think when children grow up in that kind of environment, their whole sense of belonging hinges on being like their parents -- not like those other stupid people who their parents may, on some level, even love and care about, but are never going to be "our kind of people" because of those different choices the parents just can't understand and therefore label as "stupid." Or, more nicely, as "not well thought-out."

A child who hears that kind of stuff enough times, is bound to feel somewhat constricted in her ability to explore a wide variety of ideas and possibilities, and come to her own conclusions. Of course, I don't know how to totally escape from it (being constrictive), myself. Maybe as our children see the areas where dh and I've changed our minds through listening to them, they'll realize we're just people, too -- very fallible and always learning.
post #112 of 117
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Originally Posted by AllisonR View Post
Well, so glad to here your views about most of us on this forum. Anyone care to pass the tea and scones?

This thread is getting way off topic. The first 4-5 pages were so enjoyable to read. It is supposed to be about control in relationship to various parenting styles. Now

Allison
Huh? :

I think maybe you didn't understand what I was trying to say in my post. I was just conceding that there's some truth to my parents' and siblings' high opinion of themselves; I didn't intend to say anything at all about anyone on this forum specifically or generally.

And if I got off-topic, I apologize. I just meant to give the example of how my own parents exerted "control." Sorry if I offended anyone.
post #113 of 117
Mammal Mama wrote:
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I think when children grow up in that kind of environment, their whole sense of belonging hinges on being like their parents -- not like those other stupid people who their parents may, on some level, even love and care about, but are never going to be "our kind of people" because of those different choices the parents just can't understand and therefore label as "stupid." Or, more nicely, as "not well thought-out."
A child who hears that kind of stuff enough times, is bound to feel somewhat constricted in her ability to explore a wide variety of ideas and possibilities, and come to her own conclusions.
You have a point here! It's only in my 30s that I've realized how firmly I closed off certain possibilities to myself because of my parents' teaching that "we" don't do that; the reason I wasn't aware of these sooner is that I personally happened not to want to take those directions in life. For example, in our family a person who has finished high school goes directly to college, or possibly to some type of work or service for a few years before college, but at any rate leaves her parents' home and generally moves to another state. My parents and all of their siblings did this, as did 3 of 4 grandparents and most of the cousins, and everyone spoke of this as a positive experience. I did it myself and loved it and feel that it was a very important step in creating the satisfying life I have today. But if I had wanted to marry my high school boyfriend right after graduation and immediately become a SAHM living down the street from my parents, that would have been surprising and somewhat disappointing to my family. It would have advantages (more time with the grandkids, etc.) that would be appreciated, but my family would always feel that I had missed something important in life, and I would sense that even if they didn't say it.

So, yes, having expectations and talking up the merits of one's own choices IS a form of control. But can you really avoid doing that? And if you do, doesn't that mean your children know you less well (because they don't know what you value or why) and that they are not only unable to disappoint you but also unable to please you?
post #114 of 117
i think worms are nutritious in a soulfood kinda way and Katherine I appreciate your articulate abilities in sorting through this one. i agree.
post #115 of 117
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Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post
So, yes, having expectations and talking up the merits of one's own choices IS a form of control. But can you really avoid doing that? And if you do, doesn't that mean your children know you less well (because they don't know what you value or why) and that they are not only unable to disappoint you but also unable to please you?
Maybe the best approach is to follow Katherine's suggestion of choosing which of our values are really "hills to die on." I agree that each of us is going to have some values that are so near and dear to our hearts, it's going to be impossible (and even undesirable and dishonest) to present it to our kids as "this was right for me but might not be for you."

But there's a ton of other stuff that's truly not a "hill to die on." For instance, because of my childhood issues, I've actually found it helpful that I didn't meet the right guy and marry 'til age 35. I was so immature as a young adult, it took me that many years to catch up.

I don't necessarily think my own children are going to be any better off marrying later in life, though. Actually, being an older mom myself, I (secretly) think it'd be way cool if they married young so we'll still be able-bodied enough to be an active Grandma and Grandpa, and even, God willing, live to be a part of our great-grandchildren's lives.

But this certainly isn't anything I want to burden my children with, just my own little idea of bliss!

Also, it worked well for me to live with Mom and Dad for all but one year of college, to cut down on costs, and to move back home for a while when I was older. This may work for one or more of my children, or they may choose other educational/career routes; dh and I want them to feel welcome to stay home as long as they like -- but free to move on when they're ready.

There are so many issues where there's no one right answer.
post #116 of 117
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Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post
You have a point here! It's only in my 30s that I've realized how firmly I closed off certain possibilities to myself because of my parents' teaching that "we" don't do that; the reason I wasn't aware of these sooner is that I personally happened not to want to take those directions in life. For example, in our family a person who has finished high school goes directly to college, or possibly to some type of work or service for a few years before college, but at any rate leaves her parents' home and generally moves to another state. My parents and all of their siblings did this, as did 3 of 4 grandparents and most of the cousins, and everyone spoke of this as a positive experience. I did it myself and loved it and feel that it was a very important step in creating the satisfying life I have today. But if I had wanted to marry my high school boyfriend right after graduation and immediately become a SAHM living down the street from my parents, that would have been surprising and somewhat disappointing to my family. It would have advantages (more time with the grandkids, etc.) that would be appreciated, but my family would always feel that I had missed something important in life, and I would sense that even if they didn't say it.
Haven't read the whole thread, but I didn't do "what I was supposed to" regarding "going away to college, before getting married". And yes, it was considered "a far from best choice" in so many verbalized, scorned and shaming ways, beyond the understood "expectation". I married my high school sweetheart, immediately after high school, after living with him; and we'll have been married 25 years this year!



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So, yes, having expectations and talking up the merits of one's own choices IS a form of control. But can you really avoid doing that? And if you do, doesn't that mean your children know you less well (because they don't know what you value or why) and that they are not only unable to disappoint you but also unable to please you?
This seems to limit the possibilities to EITHER "have expectations and talk up the merits of one's own choices" OR "children know you less well". My goal is unconditional love, without the burden of "disappoint me" or "please me". Neither of which are my child's responsibility, imo. I am responsible to meet my own values, expectations, integrity, and desires for happiness, without our child carrying that burden. And my parents were/are disappointed because their expectations were/are placed on us kids, and we choose not to regard their values over our own. I am comfortable with our son choosing his own values FOR HIMSELF, not in order to please me, even over my own values. He does this already by eating mammals, for instance.

By choosing to model my value of unconditional acceptance and regard, ds knows me and my values, most clearly. And yet, that doesn't connote control over him.

Pat
post #117 of 117
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Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
Also, it worked well for me to live with Mom and Dad for all but one year of college, to cut down on costs, and to move back home for a while when I was older. This may work for one or more of my children, or they may choose other educational/career routes; dh and I want them to feel welcome to stay home as long as they like -- but free to move on when they're ready.
That's exactly how I feel.
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