162: Let’s Talk About Control!

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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American culture implies that if you are in control of your child’s behavior, you are a “good parent.” But that is extremely flawed logic. Our job as parents is to guide our kids to create a life of joy, fulfillment, and success for themselves. It’s not to have little people that we control. It’s not to have someone to exert authority over. How would that benefit our kids? How would that benefit us? 

So we have to relinquish some control to our kids to teach them independence and set them up for success. But we also have to relinquish control to our kids for the benefit of their confidence and sense of competence. Kids can’t do well if we don’t allow them to make their own choices and take charge of themselves (and they can’t develop those skills either). Join me as I talk about the benefits of relinquishing control to our kids, and the importance of accepting what we cannot control and focusing our energy instead on what we can influence.


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Penny Williams 0:03

We're guides and facilitators and support. We are not driving their bus, we shouldn't be at least because they cannot discover who they are, and live their true self. If we are driving their bus, they have to have some control. Welcome to The Parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD a Holic and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started.

Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD Podcast. Today, I want to talk to you about control. And control is often an issue for parents. Somehow, parents feel that we are supposed to control our children. And I think that we get this notion from our societies and cultures. And we appear to be a good parent, if we're out in the world and our kids are behaving. And when they're not behaving, we have control over it, we feel like people will then see us as a good parent, if we have control over our kids. And it's really a very minimizing sort of concept. You know, our kids are individual people, they are not just a reflection of us. They are their own person with their own thoughts and their own opinions, and their own ways of doing things. And we need to be celebrating that, right. We're raising individuals, we're not raising small versions of ourselves. And by really being open about the concept of control, we are teaching our kids to be in control of themselves. You know, so often with kids with ADHD are on the autism spectrum, we struggle with the fact that they many times are not in control of their behavior.

They're not in control of their emotions, their reactions, their ability to do this or meet that expectation. And that really weigh is very, very heavily on our kids. That sense that they have no control over their lives, creates a lot of anxiety. And it erodes confidence and self esteem. And having a sense of control on the flip side, then makes you feel like you're competent, you can do things people have faith in you, you are able to make good decisions, you are able to get things done, you are able to meet your goals, what you want for yourself, because you are in charge. And we need to shift from this idea that parents are in charge to parents and kids are on the same team. And we collaborate we work together. Because when we don't have our kids buy in, we are going to get nowhere know where with our commandments. And our requests for that aren't really requests, right? Their instruction of something we want them to do. That relationship is really tough for our kids. And I have to say that relationship is not what we want as parents, we may think that's what we need. But when we get there, it doesn't really feel good.

It doesn't feel good to order your child around whether they comply or not. You know, just the sense of trying to force compliance is not a fulfilling relationship with our kids. There's not the relationship that we want to have with our kids. But when we're working together toward the same goal, which is helping our kids find their interests and passions and what they're good at, and to have lots of wins and successes and a happy adult life. When we're working together toward that. It feels pretty great. Honestly, it feels really great that we're on the same team that we're contributing but that we're also valuing the contributions of our kids. That feels really fulfilling and it creates a so much opportunity for our kids. Because when our kids have a sense of control, then their frontal lobe is firing, right? They haven't flipped their lid because they have control. And that control doesn't have to be making all the decisions, we're not talking here about, I'm gonna throw up my hands as a parent and say, Okay, you do whatever you want. Because not at all, when I'm talking about when I say give your kids control, you're still parenting them, you're still teaching them and raising them, and guiding them.

But that's just that we're guides and facilitators and support, we are not driving their bus, we shouldn't be at least, because they cannot discover who they are, and live their true self. If we are driving their bus, they have to have some control. And for kids with anxiety, this is huge, huge, because where does anxiety come from? The feeling that we can't control what might happen, right? I'm so worried, I might wreck my car and get hurt. I'm so worried my kid might get their feelings hurt if they go to a particular activity. Without a parent, I'm so worried my kid might fall from that really high balance beam at the playground. You know, we're constantly worried about what might happen, because we don't have control over what might happen. Some things we do. And I suppose you could tell your kid you can't go up on that balance beam because I'm worried that you might get hurt. But that overprotection is also pretty damaging. We're not preparing our kids to be independent, and to do well as independent adults, if we're over protective, they have to learn how to try for themselves. They have to learn to do hard things, they have to learn that they can accomplish things on their own, that they are capable.

And as long as we are overprotective, that doesn't happen. So instead, we can give our kids some control. Okay, if you want to play on that at the playground, you need to be really careful. You know, let's talk about what it might take to stay safe. But if you want to do that, and you understand the risks and the danger, that's your choice to make. I'm not talking about a three year old here, right? We're talking about an eight 910 year old, even maybe older, we still are setting boundaries, and we're still holding boundaries. And we need to give measure choices to pass off some sense of control. We don't have to completely give our kids total control. Again, we're not throwing our hands up and saying, Oh, I'm not parenting, you, you do what you want. We're giving kids guidance and boundaries, and letting them take control within that. And we're supporting that journey for them. So unmeasured choices. What I mean by that is, do you want to wear your short sleeve shirt with the shark on it today? Or do you want to wear the short sleeve shirt with the transformer on it today, right.

So you have given them boundaries, that the weather appropriate thing to wear is a short sleeve shirt when you're going to school, but you're giving your kid control over what they're actually wearing, they get to choose, they get a sense that they are in control of themselves in their lives. And that's what they need to be able to move forward with any sort of confidence with any sort of self esteem, they get so many messages already at school, and in other places where they don't quite fit. And things are harder for them, that they don't measure up, that they're not good enough that they don't fit in. And in order to combat some of that they need to have success with having a say over their life in their world. They need to have success with making a choice making a decision taking control of something, maybe they have a big project for school. And there's lots of components. And there's a whole timeline to this project. And you know that if you just said, Okay, you go for it, that they don't have the skills yet to be able to do that successfully, right. But you can still give them a great sense of control, while scaffolding and supporting that process.

And that project. If they have choices of what their topic is for the project, let them choose, I can tell you what their brain will be focused and firing much more if they get to choose the topic and what they're working on than if somebody chooses it for them. And it's not important or interesting to them. Because the ADHD brain fires for interest and urgency, not importance. And so by giving a sense of control, now we're helping anxiety, we're helping them to take control of what works for them right Well, I'm not interested at all in writing a paper on rocks. But I really want to write a paper on the environment in our local stream or river, or whatever it might be, there's almost always a choice, I work with teachers to do that, because they will do so much better. If they are interested, they will do so much better if they have a sense of control. And giving them a choice gives them a sense of control, right? asking them, what part of this project do you think you should do? First, you choose, instead of telling them, when we tell them, we have taken all of the power from them, we have all of the power, and they know it.

And they don't like it. Right? We love it makes life easier if we just can be able to say, Do this, do that don't do this, don't do that. And everything goes fine, and hunky dory and just dandy. But that's not real life. And our kids have to learn to be able to make decisions, when they're in control, if we don't give them the opportunity to learn that they're not going to learn it. So we're giving them the sense of control, we're helping with mitigating some anxiety, we're helping with letting them choose ways to do things that are going to work for them, right, that are going to get their brain going, they're going to get them motivated. We're also fostering independence. That's what independence is having control over yourself in your life independently, right? Your parents don't tell you what to do anymore, your parents don't take care of you anymore. You're independent out there in the future, that sort of end goal. How do we get there from where we are a whole lot of baby steps, a whole lot of increments, and a whole lot of relinquishing control to our kids, they have to sort of test drive it right, they have to figure out the best ways to manage the control that they have. That builds confidence that builds competence, that builds self esteem.

I see so many families that I'm coaching. And that come to our summits and all of these other things that we do online or Facebook groups, they are really struggling with mood and anger with their kids. And almost always what I'm hearing is that the kids have zero control. They don't get to make any decisions for themselves. They don't get to choose the backpack, they might have the shoes, they might wear nothing, nothing at all the toothpaste flavor that they want, they don't have any control. Think about if you had no control of your life, think about if you're a robot, and somebody was using a joystick or a game controller, and controlling you, you had no ability to do anything other than what you were programmed and told to do. It kind of sucks, guys. It's not fun. It's not fulfilling at all. It's not living. Our kids need to have a say, in their life, they need to have a say in the world. They need to have a say, in their day today. And in their role in the family. Here we talk about family as community, and everybody needs to chip in and help out. And everybody has a part that needs to play so that the family or the community can function together?

Well. If we don't give them that role, if we don't give them that piece of the teamwork, the community, the family, how are they going to learn to do that? They're not, their interactions with others are not going to go well, if they haven't learned how to make decisions, how to have some give and take, kids need to even learn that. Sometimes when they have control, they might need to give it to somebody else. They might need to give it back to you. Maybe they don't feel comfortable making a decision. Maybe they need your guidance to make a decision. When we show them that we trust them to be in control. They will trust us to be supportive. They will trust us to look at what they're going through to hear what they're going through and to help them they will trust us to have their back. But we have to show them that we have confidence in them. The second aspect of control that I want to talk to you about is the way that we handle our own senses of control and lack of control as parents as adults. When you have a child with differences and challenges and struggles.

You want to control all of it. You want to change it and fix it right. We don't want our kids to suffer and struggle. Some of that we have control over and some of it we don't and when we are spending time and energy and all of our emotions And on something we have zero control over that we can never change the outcome of, we are damaging ourselves. We are really making life difficult, we're adding a ton of stress and anxiety, we are really making it harder for ourselves. And we're robbing ourselves of the opportunities for joy. If I am super worried about and really trying to change something, and there's no way in the world I could ever change, it just can't happen. What could I be doing with that time instead, if I recognize that I don't have any control over this item, I cannot affect change on this thing.

Now I can spend that time on something else on something joyful, something that makes me feel good, instead of stressing about something and feeling horrible, and still getting nowhere. For example, if you're still railing against the fact that your child is going to struggle, that they struggle, sometimes that they have to do different things that they don't always fit in, if you're still pushing and trying to change that you're really spinning your wheels, and you're just not going to gain any traction. Because you can't change the brain your child was born with, you can help them learn skills, you can help them build emotional intelligence, you can help them create strategies, and use tools to work around things that they struggle in, you can help them create a life that is true to them, and successful and happy in whatever way that looks like for them. But you can't change the brain that they were born with. You can't walk into the hospital and go nope,

I don't want this one. This one is too hard. This one causes pain for my child, this one causes pain for my family I have to change, give us a new brain. It's just not a thing, right? It is something we have zero control over. But instead, we have a lot of effect and control over the experience that our kids have in this world. Not complete control, mind you, because we're not everything to them in every aspect of every day. They have teachers, they have coaches, they have friends and social peers, they have doctors and counselors and all these other people in their lives, neighbors, their friends, parents, not everybody is going to understand them. And not everybody is going to give them what they need. But we can help to make it the most that is possible. We can help people to see them for who they are, we can give them opportunities to find their passion to really ignite their interests to find something they're good at and they like doing and makes them feel good about themselves.

We have to recognize what we can and can't do in this role as a parent of a neuro atypical child, we have to recognize what we can have some effect on. And what is pointless to even try. And I actually sat down several years ago, and completed a locus of control, which you just draw a big circle on a piece of paper and draw a smaller circle inside of it, you're almost drawing like a donut. But you want that rim of the donut to be thick enough to write things in it. And so in that inner circle, the very inner circle, you write the things that you can change, or you can have effect on you have some control over, you have some influence in that outer ring, the donut, you write the things that you cannot control, you cannot influence them. They are what they are. And then you work a lot on accepting those things in that outer circle. Right? Because again, as long as we're pushing against what is we are creating pain and sorrow for ourselves. But if we accept what is we create time, and space and room for joy, for great experiences with our kids for some time to rest, because we need that to write for self care. But we have to understand what we can influence and what we can't. And we have to accept what we can influence and what we can't. And when we do that work for ourselves. Now we're in a better space. We have a better energy, better interactions with our family. Now we can do better for our kids.

And now we feel more confident honestly, in giving them some sense of control. This works for kids of all ages, kindergarten, age, age five up, they all need a sense of control in some way or another. Find ways that you can say yes, instead of just saying Now, find ways that you can give them choices, so that they feel a sense of control. I promise you, if you put this into practice, you will see a very positive change in your child and your family and your child's mood, in their sensitivity even because when kids have no sense of control over their lives, they are just waiting for the shoe to drop, they're waiting for the bomb to go off. They don't know when it's coming in, they don't know what it's going to be, because they can't control anything. That was a really tough state to live in. It's very activated, it's very uncomfortable. And it's very sensitive. So anything that goes on around them, when they are worried about what's going to happen, they don't have control over, it's gonna be really easy to get triggered, so much more easily triggered. And then you've got mood, you've got aggression, you've got unwanted behavior, you've got a kid who melts down a teenager who, slams the door and says you're the most evil parent ever. giving them control helps to prepare them to handle things.

And it gives them the sense that they can handle things. And it takes away some of that extra sensitivity of never knowing what's going to happen to you. It is so tough to never know what's going to happen to you, and to have no control over it. So I really hope that you'll think about what I've talked about here, and try to put it into practice. Sit down and think about what do I have control over? What do I not sit down and think about in the things that we go through day to day with our kid? Where can we give up some control? Where can we give them some decision making ability? Where can we let them know that we trust them to come up with a plan and figure it out, I want you to pick one thing, just one thing in the next few days, that you can give some control to your child on that usually they have no control over and see what happens. And give yourselves a few days. You know, give yourself some time after you try it to see the results. Very few things are immediate. Giving some control can be pretty immediate. As long as you're doing it when your child's calm, it isn't a tool to make things better. In the moment, right, they've already flipped their lid, their thinking brains offline, yours probably is too at that time.

That's not the time to give them decisions to make because they don't have access to that part of their brain. These are things you do day to day, they're not a tool to try to change things that are happening in the thick of them. And I would love for you guys to come back here and comment on the show notes page and let us know. Let's chat about what did you relinquish some control with to your kid? How did it go? You know we can inspire each other we can support each other and encourage you to do that. The show notes for this episode are going to be a parentingADHDandautism.com/162 for episode 162. And I'll see you guys next time. Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and Mama retreats at parentingADHDandautism.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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About the show...

I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

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