Sunday, January 22, 2012
Giving up Control to Gain Control
I have a confession to make. I am a control freak. Ok, that was a little hard for me to say. But now you know. I wouldn't want to be the captain of a boat during a storm and have to rely on the lighthouse signal to keep me safe. That would make me feel like things were out of my control.
Parenting can be difficult for control freaks. (Actually, that is probably an understatement.) Somehow children are born with wills of their own. They are all about being in control themselves. So comes the clash of the wills. Is the parent or the child going to get their way? Having a child with RAD whose main struggle is to fight for control of everything, has brought this control freak to her knees.
This past week I spent each day praying and asking God to help me give my son more control of his actions so he can learn to choose correct behaviors for himself.
One challenge that came my way was the feeding of the dog. It has been his chore for the past five months. It is to be done right after breakfast. But someone always forgets and has to be reminded. He was told, "It is your responsibility to feed and water the dogs right after breakfast. However, I can't make you. It's your choice. Just remember, you must live with your choices. If you choose to forget, you will only get a glass of milk, an apple, and piece of toast for lunch. That way you will understand how the dogs feel when they are hungry."
I had to bite my tongue when the dogs weren't fed three days in a row. I quietly fed the dogs, made no comment, and set out the chosen lunch on the table when mealtime rolled around. On day three, he sent his brother down to tell me he wouldn't be eating lunch. Knowing he was listening in the stairwell, I said that was his choice. However, he did decide to come down for his apple and toast after we were cleaning up, and I had to tell him, "Sorry, but you made the choice to skip lunch. You'll have to wait until supper." That wasn't easy.
What was surprising for me in these instances is that I did not have an angry boy with a rebellious spirit. He accepted the choices he made. He did try to work things around and make mom feel guilty, but it just backfired on him.
Typically when I tell him to feed the dog, I'm often met with an attitude. The "you can't tell me what to do" attitude. Or the "I'm doing it, but I don't like it" attitude. Then there is the battle of wills or the battle over respect or the lectures about everyone in the house doing their part. None of it was fun, and ultimately I realized he was just controlling me. Not something a control freak likes to recognize.
Thursday first thing my son hops up from the breakfast table and feeds the dog. He then proudly informed me three times throughout the morning, "I get to eat lunch today." And the first thing he told his dad when he came in the door for lunch was, "I get to eat today." He was proud of having made a good choice. And though he had a memory lapse again on Friday, he's been successful the past two days. He may grow up not wanting to eat another piece of toast or an apple, but I think he's learning a valuable lesson.
And this control freak...well, she's learned sometimes you have to give up control to gain control.