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It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.

It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.  Mark Twain

For the next few weeks, the Purposeful Parent will be offering some insight into the inaccuracy of some of the most prevalent long-held beliefs about parenting and discipline — otherwise known as myths.  So, get ready, get set… Here comes some super psychologically based busting!

Myth # 1—  I can and should control my child. 

False It’s a myth! We are unable to control any other human being except ourselves and therefore should not attempt to. Bam!  You might argue this one expressing that you, in fact, control your child all the time.  You TELL him what time to go to bed, you MAKE him brush his teeth every night, you GET him to school every day, and, in general, you successfully ENFORCE all the rules in your home. So, it might seem rather silly to hear that, in fact, you cannot control anybody.  

Believe it or not, your child CHOOSES to go to bed when you tell him to, and to brush his teeth every night, and to follow all the rules all the time, right? Well, whatever he does and doesn’t do, in fact, is his choice, not yours.  Maybe he does as you say because he wants to please you, or because he has learned it’s in his best interest, or maybe he is afraid of being punished or afraid a losing a privilege. (We will talk more about this in our next myth-buster)  In any case, it is the child’s choice.

Temporary control vs Long-term influence  

Aren’t there instances when we should try our best to take control of a situation, if even temporarily? It is imperative that we set limits and do our best to guide an nurture good choices. But as you will learn if you choose to dig deeper, temporary control is only beneficial in extreme cases, to secure safety.  If your child runs into the street—yes, it is time to physically temporarily control them.  If your teen is about to leave your house with a dangerous person— yes, you temporarily attempt to control them to keep them safe. If your child is choking a younger sibling— yes, you temporarily physically remove them to keep all safe.

However, if your goal is to nurture and help your child develop into an emotionally and socially healthy and independent child, you will want to make long-term influence your priority and limit attempts to control.  You will want to learn alternatives to teaching responsibility. Upside?—

“By letting go of control, you actually gain control.”  William Glasser.  

Knowing this bit of information, and believing it to be true is what distinguishes a Purposeful Parent from a *default parent. It is the catalyst for good parenting!

Now you may ask, “But how do I let go of control?”  

And this is a very good question.  It may just take a little training, a little reading on your part.  A Purposeful Parent is always ready to explore and learn, knowing that the investment today will pay off with a lifetime of loving dividends.  To help you get started I’ve included a brief list of books to investigate. Have fun perusing!

CONTROL THEORY, William Glasser:  Based on the psychological premise of physicist William Powers— The only person we can control is ourselves, and by doing so, we have a greater chance of influencing others (including our children).

HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN & LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK, Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish:  Many of us spend a heck of a lot of time telling our children what is in our head in order to influence what is going on in their heads.  Maybe it’s time to ask questions and just listen.  You’ll be amazed how much YOU learn!

MINDFUL DISCIPLINE, a loving approach to setting limits & raising an emotionally intelligent child.  Shauna Shapiro/Chris White:  This is a must-have for new parents and parents of younger children.  Wow! So many answers and as well as effective verbiage to use in tough situations.   

 UNCONDITIONAL PARENTING, Alfie Kohn:  In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking “What do kids need — and how can we meet those needs?” What follows are the best suggestions to help us move from teaching by doing things TO others and instead learn the payoff of teaching by doing things WITH.

THE UNHAPPY TEENAGER, William Glasser:  Is this title redundant?  Well, mood changes from Monday to Tuesday with most teens, but there are indeed some that linger in unhappiness. Put on your seatbelt, because William Glasser’s ideas are an entirely different ride than you might be accustomed to. 

PEACEFUL PARENT, HAPPY KIDS, How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, Dr. Laura Markham:  What parent can’t relate to needing to find alternatives to yelling?  I know I did. There are no books written about how to be a better yeller, so you might as well start learning how not to.

MINDFUL DISCIPLINE, a loving approach to setting limits & raising an emotionally intelligent child.  Shauna Shapiro/Chris White:  This is a must-have for new parents and parents of younger children.  Wow! Well organized and easy to read. It also provides valuable information about that ongoing parent conundrum- When to allow my child to figure it out for herself, ‘demandingness,’ and when to step in and meet needs, ‘responsiveness.’

*default parent- one who relies completely on past generational practice to make all decisions.

About the author

Kate Martin

Kate Martin has been a high school teacher for 27 years and retired from the Racine Unified School District in 2015. 

She taught students with special needs as well as those in general education. While working with hundreds of parents over the years, she discovered that there was a significant lack of resources and educational opportunities to help them navigate the many demands of parenting today. 

For this reason, in 2013 she founded The Purposeful Parent, offering workshops and resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers.  

Buy the Book by Kate Martin: The Best Thoughts To Think Five minutes Before