Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 3: Too Much Control

This chapter really hit me because, as I describe in my Tandem Nurturer posts, we are facing major control issues here with a new baby in the house. If you are willing and able, please share a situation or solution around control that you have experienced as a parent or caregiver. Then we can work together to come up with ideas for each other. Thank you!


  • Observe other parents/caregivers next time you are out (playground, store, etc.). What tone and words are parents using with their children? What are children getting in trouble for? Is the parent response reasonable?  [The point is not to judge but to see and reflect. No one can know all the circumstances of a person or situation from looking for a few minutes from the outside.] (pp. 46-7)
  • Children whose experience is of feeling controlled may only feel loved if they conform to demands. (p. 47)
  • “For every example of a child who is permitted to run wild in a public place, there are hundreds of children being restricted unnecessarily, yelled at, threatened, or bullied by their parents; children whose protests are ignored and whose questions are dismissedout of hand; children who have become accustomed to hearing an automatic ‘No’ in response to their requests, and a ‘Because I said so!’ if they ask for a reason.” (pp. 47-8)
  • “The dominant problem with parenting in our society isn’t permissiveness, but the fear of permissiveness. We’re so worried about spoiling kids that we often end up overcontrolling them.” (p. 49)
  • Children who do what they are told generally have parents who respect them and their feelings, minimize use of control, offer reasons and explanations, listen to objections, and give children more say (especially in how to play). (pp. 51-20)
  • Excessive control leads to a feeling of powerlessness in the child which leads to anger. (p. 55)
  • Overcontrol can lead to a loss of self-regulation in a child. This can negatively affect relationship with food, moral conscience and internal compass, interest level and ability to deal with frustration. Children who have parents who do things for them that they can do for themselves can end up with a lower skill level. (pp/ 57-61)
  • Structure is needed by children, but should be reasonable, flexible, and with the child’s participation if possible. (p. 61)
  • Main question: How can we, as caregivers, offer guidance and set limits without overcontrol? (p. 49)
  • THE GOAL: To help children gain control of their own lives. (p. 62)


  • When do you find yourself leaning towards a more controlling approach to your child? What do you think leads to that reaction? Do you notice any patterns?
  • How important do you believe it is to talk about feelings with your child, for them to know about feelings? How (often) do you talk about feelings in your home? (with your partner or housemate or other family member/friend if you don’t have an older child) (p. 55)
  • Do you agree that children are born able to self-regulate? How does that belief fit (or not) with the parenting advice you have read/heard? (around eating, sleeping, pottying, etc.) (p. 58)
  • When do you find it hard or easy to let go of control and give your child control and power?

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by tamara on January 2, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I love all your great information!! Thank you soo much 🙂


  2. I’ve been using the word cooperation a lot with Ami. While I do believe that control cannot be the motivation it is in my mind crucial that they feel a part of the larger picture. Their needs are in balance with the other members of the family. Sometimes that means waiting, sometimes it means serving, sometimes it means no because the larger picture has to come before your needs for this moment but you are a large consideration in this picture and we will do our best to meet your needs as we are able. I believe it is a gift for each person in a family unit to feel that they can participate and cooperate in something that is larger than themselves.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Rather than control I think of it as limits or boundaries. This is the line that is being drawn for the sake of the greater good of our family. It is a gift to offer your child the opportunity to participate in something so beautiful and meaningful.

    Love to you in this transition friend.


    • I certainly agree, Janelle, that children want to be part of the family day to day. Toddlers are so primed to help. It is hardest for me when I realize that I’m frustrated with what Uma is doing and she is trying to help. I also agree that she needs to also learn to wait, to understand that sometimes she can’t have or do what she wants for various reasons, or that there is a time and place for certain things sometimes. There was an article on Compliance vs. Cooperation that you (and the chapter) made me think of. Limits and boundaries help children feel safe and secure. I do think that they can be set forth with a child (explaining why and being firm but not angry….something to work on with sleep deprivation and fear running rampant) or they can be told to a child in a way that is more “because I said so.” Limits are good; how we enforce them is important, too.

      Thanks, again, for the support in this time, and for offering your experience and wisdom. Great hearing your thoughts!


  3. […] a mother I feel the subtle tentacles of control wrapping themselves around my mind squeezing words out of my mouth that I don’t believe in. As a […]


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