When a Child Has Control Issues

I have written before about how we parents can let our control issues influence and affect our parenting, but it is not always the parents who have control issues or who wrestle with being overly controlling. Sometimes, it is our child or children who may be trying to get everything to go their way. Are there things we can do as parents to help a child with control issues learn to let go?

The first thing to ask ourselves is what is really going on with a child who needs and wants to control so much around him? While it may seem like some children are just born with control issues, they genuinely emerge when a child feels particularly OUT of control: the birth of a new sibling, during an unsettling time in the family, after a divorce or death or move, or at the start of something major like school. Feeling a complete lack of control and safety can cause a child to start trying to control whatever he or she can. If a child has been through something major—even a tornado, fire, or storm can bring on control issues for a person—this could very well be the cause of the need to control his or her environment (and those people in it.)

Letting a child have some control and encouraging her to see all the ways she does have control in her life can help to alleviate some of it. Reassurance and working to let the child feel safe and stable and as though he can trust the adults in his life is another way to combat control issues. The more we can let the child see that things will work out alright and that he or she will be taken care of, the less he or she may feel to squeeze things into order.

Instead of telling the child to stop being bossy or stop trying to tell others what to do—try to address the root of the problem and offer reassurance and step in as the adult. It may be a big relief for a child once he realizes that you really can take care of all the big stuff and all the details so that he does not have to worry about it so much—it just may take some time.