Is your anxiety making you a controlling parent?

"In an uncertain world, we often feel desperate for absolutes. It's the human response to fear."

--Dr. Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly

I think all parents feel a certain amount of "am I doing this right?!" anxiety. The stakes seem so incredibly high. We don't want to mess our kids up. And let's face it, when it comes to parenting, uncertainty abounds. So, we read pregnancy or parenting books. We ask the mom whose baby is napping what her secret is. We troll blogs or Facebook looking for answers or reassurance. Basically, we just want to know that it'll be ok. That we're doing the right thing for our kids. That we're not being too permissive, or too strict, too controlling or too lax. We're always waiting to feel like we've finally got this parenting thing figured out.

For some, a certain rigidity starts to take hold, as that fear of messing up wraps it's cold tentacles around our hearts. That fear is so uncomfortable, that we start to seek absolutes, clear-cut "must do it this way or else!" methods. As if there were one right way, one trick, one secret to getting kids to nap, or to potty train them or to get them to do their homework. Somehow if we could just figure out that trick, the rest would be so much easier. So in response, we get controlling and rigid, instead of flexible and curious. And guess what results when kids feel controlled? They push back. They whine. And everything feels like more of a battle. Pretty draining, right?

Yet if there's only one right way to do things, and we won't be good enough parents until we figure that out, then we'll always feel we're failing, we're unworthy parents.  I'm in love with Brene Brown's book, Daring Greatly, and highly recommend it for all. In it she writes that "worthiness...doesn't have prerequisites." So drop the "if I figure this out, then I'll be worthy" idea. You are worthy now. You are working hard. You are enough. And so are your kids. Parenting through fear fosters perfectionism, where we (and our kids) never feel good enough, and we end up valuing what others think more than our own thoughts and feelings. 

I completely agree when she writes that "whole-hearted parenting is not having it all figured out and passing it down--it's learning and exploring together." So if you're seeking a more harmonious home life, seek out win-win solutions. Ease up on trying to control your loved ones. See things from your children's point of view. Imbue them with a sense of fundamental worthiness, by first deciding that you don't have to have this all figured out. No one does. And yet, we're all worthy of love.