When Control becomes Control Freak
When life gets crazy in ADHD families, the natural tendency for some of us is to jump in and “take charge” – before things get out of hand or the situation gets the best of us. This is a normal reaction, similar to putting your hands out to brace yourself when you are falling. The brain is calmed by an increased sense of control.
Even though it's a natural response, when the stress of our day-to-day lives increases, our desire for control can get exaggerated. Instead of just managing our own “stuff” or the really critical needs of the family, we tend to want to control everything (and everyone) around us (or at a bare minimum, our spouse and kids!). We all know how well that works.
In the “Seven Habits” series by Stephen Covey, he talks about the circle of concern and the circle of influence. When we focus on areas of life that we are concerned about, but where we don't have control – like government, our neighbor's backyard, a critical boss or our spouse's attitude – our feelings of control decrease and we feel unbalanced. On the other hand, when we focus on those areas where we can take action, our sense of stability and calm increase.
The first step for any control freak parent is to recognize that you need to let go. It's hard to do, I know; but admitting you've got a problem is the first step, right? For real. If you know you have a tendency to try to control your kids or your environment more than is reasonable, let me ask you this: Do you want to change that behavior? I’m serious. Do you?
Setting the intention to change a behavior is an essential part of change. In this case, for control freak parents, it starts the gradual process of letting go. (Yes, it’s a process. No, you don't have to do it all at once!)
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So You Want to Change – How Do You Start Change?
Once you make up your mind on changing something – we call it "Taking Aim" in the Impact model – the next step is to collect information. Awareness is half the process, absolutely fundamental to developing effective strategies. If you don’t really understand what’s going on, or why; if you don’t have a clear expectation of the change you want to achieve, then how exactly are you going to achieve it? Sure, you can apply someone else’s strategy – but more often than not, you’ll end up frustrated and disappointed when it doesn’t work.
So, change starts long before you create a plan or set up a new system. It starts with setting an intention and raising self-awareness.
Then, you can move into planning. While there are four key elements to consider in this phase (each a chapter in my new book, The Essential Guide to Raising Complex Kids with ADHD, Anxiety and More), they all rely on understanding motivation (which is also explained in more detail in the book).
What’s your motivator? What’s in it for you to create change? If you’re a control freak parent, how will you benefit from letting go? What’s the value to you? Sure, it would be nice to think about what’s in it for your kid, as well. But if you don’t have a ‘why’ that speaks to you, chances are you’ll be more jazzed by holding onto control than you will be by letting it go.
The process of creating change is the same for parents and kids.
If you want kids to change a behavior:
- get buy-in to the intention
- help them learn self-awareness, and
- teach them to find their motivators.
(You guessed it, all of these topics are covered in the new book, too – and it's on audiobook voiced by my eldest child, too!).
Want to let go and stop being a control freak parent? In this quick tip, I’ve shared three key steps, and introduced the Impact Model (the tip of the iceberg, if you will). The new book, The Essential Guide, teaches the whole method in a really simple, easy to use way. If you want to learn a lasting process for creating change – so that you can let go a little, or so your kiddo will want to start doing things more independently – I hope you’ll practice the steps offered here today – and order The Essential Guide for guidance and support that will last forever.
And when you order your guide, let us know and we'll send you two bonus gifts: The Essential Guide – Pandemic Supplement; and Three Things Not to Say to Parents of Complex Kids.