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Blog: Are you being controlled by your child’s behaviour?

Do you ever get the feeling that you are not always the one in control of your family? Controlling behaviours projected by children are a real challenge for parents and a common one at that. They can stem from the unconscious feeling of helplessness or lack of safety and could also peak at transitional stages of a child’s life. Anxiety and the lack of confidence could also be a factor that results in control issues.

The nature-nurture debate plays a big part in behaviour and it attempts to explain why we behave the way we do. A child displaying controlling behaviour could be an outcome developed innately or environmentally as a result of his or hers experiences in their early lives.

Whichever reason it may be, here are some tips on dealing with controlling behaviour that your child may possess.

  •  Transitional:  Sometimes a child needs to have something that brings them comfort when trying or doing something new. For example, if your child is anxious about starting their first day of school, they may act up as a result. Giving something of yours to bring with them may give them a sense of comfort and act as a transition.
  • Talk to them: Communication can be a vital part of finding out the root of the problem. It’s important to find answers to why they’re behaving the way they do. For example, if the child is undoing the seatbelt as soon as they’ve been strapped in, it’s important to find out why? Are they uncomfortable, do they feel trapped? Are they trying to tell you something?
  • Acknowledge their feelings: Acknowledge that your child is angry, frustrated or upset. Most of the time, a child is trying to tell you something through the way they react. Don’t tell them off for being angry, instead find out why.
  • Allow feeling of capability: ‘Never do for a child, what a child can to for themselves’. Essentially, it means allowing a child to be independent. Control issues tend to worsen when loss of control is sensed. If a child is capable of doing something themselves, let them.
  • Encourage: Encourage a child when they’re doing something well and independent to build their confidence, whilst also letting them know why the negative behaviour is negative and unacceptable. Does it cause a danger? What is the consequence if they behave in that way? Going back to the seatbelt example, it’s illegal to not be strapped in, so a child needs to understand the dangers and the consequence e.g. being told off by an authority figure.

As a parent, there may be a feeling of ‘duty’ to regain control. However, having full control may have a negative impact and it’s important for the child to have a sense of independence.

A happy balance, communication and perceived control could be a way forward when trying to find a coping mechanism that works for your child when dealing with control issues.