Kids Who Crave Control
by Nadine Briggs
One of the most common issues that we hear from parents when they contact us for friendship coaching is that their child or teen tries to control social interactions. They want things their way or not at all.
Friendship is a give and take, and it involves considering the view of another person, so craving control can certainly contribute to why they are having trouble making friends. Additionally, the more someone tries to control things that they cannot, the more anxious they become. It can be very unsettling for them and might cause them to withdraw from socializing.
The important lesson for kids to understand is that they can control their own thoughts, feelings, and actions but not those of others. Accepting this truth can be hard, but it is the key to being able to let go. See the video link above that shows my little grandnephew who is only 20 months old try to crawl past his giant dog to get to his toys. The dog is over 170 lbs. and my nephew is 20 lbs. He has no choice but to find a way to get by that has nothing to do with controlling the dog. He figures it out without getting frustrated or crying. The video is a cute example of resilience when facing an obstacle.
Parents can help their kids learn to overcome this by:
- Encouraging them to discuss and collaborate on game rules before they play.
- Reminding them that the very nature of friendship involves give and take, compromise, and respecting another’s opinion.
- Recall scenarios of when others tried to control them, and remind them that it doesn’t feel fun to have someone try to control you.
- Provide examples in their own lives, your childhood, or of famous people who have faced obstacles that they were not in their control and yet they were able to find a way around those obstacles.
This is not an easy concept for many kids but these lessons can be taught with time, understanding and patience. Giving up control is necessary to allow space for friendship.