I’ve been there. I totally get it. This is for the mom who feels like she’s lost control of her child.
When my child started to meltdown, in the middle of Target, I was acutely aware of all the people staring at us.
It was ugly – like really, really ugly.
He was hitting me, clawing his own arms, and actually knocked over our cart. I know now that it was the sensory input of the lights, the smell of the Target Cafe and the baby crying in the background that likely triggered it. But at the time, all I knew was that my seven-year old was out of control. We did not have a diagnosis. We did not have any support and I had no idea what to do to help him.
As I tried, desperately, to turn the cart back over and just get the heck out of there, I heard a man turn to the lady next to him and say loudly,
“She needs to get control of that boy or he’s going to end up killing someone, someday.”
I pulled my son out to the car, both of us sobbing.
Nine years later, that same boy still hates going to Target. He doesn’t meltdown, he just tells me that he would prefer to stay in the car. He jokes that Target is his nemesis. We work around it.
That same boy is part of a leadership program at his school, and he helped take care of his little brother when I had the flu a few weeks ago. He amazes me every single day, and he is the same boy he was at Target all those years ago.
Did I finally get control over him and make him behave?
Nope. Not even a little. In fact, quite the opposite.
Instead of punishing, imposing my will and demanding certain expectations, I gave up. I gave in and decided to just do it his way for while.
I stopped making him wear socks and eat exactly what I made for dinner every night. I allowed him to go to his room and be alone, even when other people where visiting. I nixed any and all Target trips for about four years. I stopped trying to make him do all the things I thought he should do.
In short, I stopped trying to control him.
For The Mom Who Feels Like She’s Lost Control Of Her Child
It feels counter-intuitive, when your child and your life are spinning out of control, to let go and let them spin. It also is contrary to every message we receive in our culture.
Just do it.
But our children are not a workout. They are not a schedule or a task for us to complete. They are real live human beings with needs and struggles of their own.
In my experience, the more we fight to regain and maintain control, the more we lose sight of the simple fact that our children are, well, children.
Does this mean we do nothing? That we give up, let them be feral and raise themselves? No , of course not.
But I can tell you that when I stopped looking at my child as someone who I needed to subdue and instead as someone I needed to help, our entire world changed.
That was so hard for you. How can I help make it easier next time?
I know you don’t like eating with us at the table. If you prefer to eat alone that’s fine, but I want you to spend time with our family at night. Will you come hang-out with us after?
You don’t have to finish this homework assignment on your own. Shall we do it together?
It may seem like these statements are spoiling and coddling, but I want you to know that changing my tone from one of control and authority, to one of concern and care, has made everything in our lives – everything – better.
“She’s lost control of her child!”
If you feel like you just can’t get control of your child, please, let me encourage you to take a step back and give everyone a little grace (including, and maybe especially, yourself!). As a mom with two teenagers, I can’t stress enough how much our lives improved when I let go of the expectation that I control my children’s behavior.
I stopped listening to all those voices, ringing in my head, saying my children would become killers or drug abusers (seriously, why is this something people actually say?) and instead started listening to my children.
Turns out, my boys knew what they needed all along.
I just had to see their behavior as communication and not something to be controlled.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.