Parenting Lessons (Apr 24): Release Control

This is part of a monthly series where I share parenting lessons I learned on this journey.

I’m increasingly frustrated with my girl who is turning seven in a few months. Is it the primary school environment and its bombardment of influences?

“Why do I need you to tell you what to do like you are still in kindergarten?! You’re in primary school now!” I scolded her.

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Release Control in Stages

As I reflected on that incident, I saw how the root of the friction came from my wanting to control her. I was expecting her to do step 1-2-3 in my way. Now she’s pushing back and not simply doing what is supposed to be done (according to me). She might want to finish her drawing instead of washing up right after dinner. She’s shutting her ears to my instructions as her will and desire grow louder inside of her.

I was the one treating her like a toddler.

Then it dawned on me, this is the pit stop where I should let go a bit more. In a timely coincidence, I picked up “The Art of Parenting” book to read for my parenting course, and saw this:

As your children pass through the various stages of growing up, expect them to ask more questions, try new things, and push back against the rules. At various points in a child’s life, a parent releases him to increasing levels of independence. Recognising and allowing for the smaller release points will make the “big release” go easier for you and your children. The teenage years are the questioning years. And they should be.

‘The Art of Parenting’ book

This brought back a revelation I had years ago when I tackled a three-nager. I saw how God is gracious to parents. Parents start with Stage 1 of rebellion when their children are toddlers. Those who spend time with these young children will get a preview or idea of the future teenage phase. Caregivers would sense the children gradually nudging and pushing back in the growing years.

These are moments when parents learn to let go – that is if parents didn’t outsource parenting but are with the children to notice these subtle/quiet pushing backs. These opportunities allow us to prepare or train ourselves in small ways before the big “rebellion” test comes in the children’s teenage years. God doesn’t give us too much that we can’t bear. So from a three-nager to a teenager, we gradually release our control. In this, we don’t get a rude shock and become frustrated when these teenagers rebel in loud and obvious ways. That is when they are of age to forcefully or recklessly assert their independence.

Daughter rollerblading away

Control of the Helicopter Parent

I read that helicopter and overpowering/controlling parents will make the child grow up to be indecisive and unconfident in their choices. That’s because they are used to others making those decisions. Children should have the chance to practise choices with smaller consequences. In this way, when they grow up to face more difficult decisions with bigger consequences, they have practised well enough.

I was also reminded to give my daughter a chance to fail, fail when things are less consequential. If I fear failure as a parent because of my insecurities, I will protect my children and make it hard for them to fail. This might cause them to fear failure. And if they never fail small before, they will crumble when a big failure hits them.

Parents were controlled

We control because we were controlled. Ps Timothy Keller in a sermon asked if we are making our parents the idol. For Christians, do we seek approval from God or them? At the back of our minds, we find it hard to forgive ourselves when we did wrong/failed because it meant we failed our parents. If not, why don’t we forgive ourselves even though God forgive us?

We tend not to want to make the same parenting mistakes as our parents but find ourselves inevitably committing them – because that’s what we learned when we were younger and now model after them. In a mother-daughter relationship book, I read this advice I try to practise – allow the mother/father to let go of their control over us. We are not them, we can be different.

Before April ended, I read a Chinese parenting book and was reminded again that we are at this stage where I should be more conscious in trying to release control. Let my daughter grow to become who God made her to be, not who I want her to be. Let go and let the children grow. For those who read Chinese, this is for you:

That’s about it, thanks for journeying with me on this parenting journey. Before you go, you might want to check out my other posts on parenting. Leave your parenting tips, comments or questions below. Love to hear from you. 🙂

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