Y’all have read my posts before. You know my control freak tendencies (if not, here’s a sampling: here & here). But, I bet you didn’t know I even tried to control my boys’ emotions? Yep. True story. If one boy throws a tantrum, I stand over him demanding “Stop. Calm down. You’re fine.” Or I may take the bear hug approach. As he’s kicking and screaming, I hold him super tight thinking my “embrace” will help his body relax. (FYI, this usually ends up as more of a wrestling match than a magic calming formula). These attempts show I believe my boys can’t regulate their own emotions—that they need my help.

(As a special education teacher/Speech-Language Pathologist I recognize there are boys who truly can’t regulate their own emotions, but since mine have mild sensory integration issues they are—for the most part—physically capable of managing themselves.)

I’ve been managing their emotions for so long, they don’t know how to do it themselves.

I became aware of my mommy “oops” while interviewing behavior therapist, Kirk Martin of CelebrateCalm.com. He told me:

“You can only control one person in life…that’s yourself. Sometimes, when you let children own their mood, then they will change it more quickly.”

So I gave it a shot. The next time my seven year old son (you read that right) threw a tantrum I simply told him he was free to be upset. Then I walked over to the kitchen table, a few feet away and starting working on a puzzle. Fifteen minutes later a sniffly young boy plopped down next to me and grabbed a puzzle piece. (As Kirk pointed out, this was not the time to correct his grumpy manner, but to invite him into my calm place.)

Once my son owned his emotions we could talk rationally about what made him upset.

This principal of “stepping back so he can step up” hasn’t only been helpful with emotions. I’ve started applying it to leaving the house. Typically every step in the “getting out the door” process is micromanaged: “Get dressed. Put your dirty clothes away. Comb your hair. Find your shoes. Fill your water bottle.” Recently, my guidance sounds more like, “I’m leaving in 10 minutes. Please be ready and out the door at that time,” because Kirk reminded me:

“I never give kids control, I give them ownership. When we step back as parents, our kids can step up with responsibility.”

On most days, those boys show they are fully capable of remembering every step in leaving the house. (And my blood pressure has dropped significantly.) I don’t know about you, but I love a good, responsible man. I’m pretty sure employers do to.

As moms of boys we can choose to micromanage every interaction with our boys and paralyze their ability to take ownership. Or we can take a giant step back, giving them the chance to step up with responsibility.

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths,
but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” ― Anne Frank

What parenting area do you struggle most in letting go and stepping back?

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