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Is Your Parent Controlling or Cultivating?

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Is Your Parent Controlling or Cultivating?

It’s not unusual to hear parents talking about how out of control their teenagers are, and how they are continuously making bad decisions. Similarly, I often hear teens talking about how controlling how their parents are. The truth is, they are all correct. Teenagers do tend to be egocentric, with their ultimate goal really just being to get what they want when they want it. Often, they will go to endless means to achieve that, even when the sacrifice or consequence is extreme. Parents, on the other hand, have an obligation to guide you and keep you safe. It is their job to set forth limits, rules and boundaries. To most teens, this feels like controlling, and causes problems between themselves and their parents.

So, what is the difference between controlling and cultivating? According to dictionary.com, controlling means to dominate or command. Interestingly, though, it also means to hold in check or curb. Most of us, especially teens, tend to view the word with a negative connotation. But isn’t a parent’s job to hold their child in check and curb bad behaviors? As for the word cultivate, it means to promote or improve the growth of. That is precisely what parenting is all about! Where you teenagers might see something as controlling and nagging, your parents see it as guiding and caring. If your parents simply let you do whatever you wanted all of the time, how on earth would they be cultivating an outstanding human being?

Every parent’s dream is for their children to become good, kind, healthy and successful human beings. That dream literally starts before your birth, and is behind every single parenting decision your parents make. It is your parents’ job to guide you, to teach you right from wrong, and to raise you to be a productive, independent and successful member of society. They don’t need you to be perfect. They don’t need you to choose the career or partner that they might have wanted for you. They do need to show you how to be a great person. The best way to get your parents to stop nagging you and act less controlling is to actually step up to the plate and be a good teenager and a good person.

Here are some things to think about when you’re finding your parents controlling.

  1. Ask yourself if your parents are actually being controlling, in the bad way you think they are. Are they simply trying to dominate and command you to do or not do something for absolutely no good reason other than they want power over you? Since this is not usually the case, ask yourself what else might really be going on here. Are you behaving like a good human being? What might they actually be concerned about and wanting from you? Why might they be wanting that more than what it is that you’re wanting? Are they trying to cultivate something here? A value or a character trait perhaps? Stop and give this some thought before you assume they’re just being nagging jerks.
  2. Consider what your parents’ goals, hopes and dreams might be for you. For example, some parents don’t care what their kids do, as long as they are happy. Others want you to reach your potential, so if they know you are a capable student, they will expect good grades, college, etc. This might actually be in your best interest. Maybe it’s really important to them that you contribute to the work load around the house. And while this might seem annoying to you, consider that your parents might be overwhelmed with all of their duties and responsibilities and actually need your help. Also realize that you are old enough to help, and they might be trying to instill some important values here about work ethics and responsibility. This might even help you later in life.
  3. Figure out what your goals for yourself are. While it is important to consider your parents’ goals for you, it is even more important to know what your own goals for yourself are. I am not talking about your immediate goals for tonight, like to see your boyfriend or girlfriend or go to a party that your parents said no to. I’m talking here about your long term goals for yourself. Do you want to be kind person, get good grades, a baseball scholarship, college, marriage, family, a good job, etc.? Or have you not given it much thought at all? Are the choices you are making leading you closer or further away from your goals? It’s important for you to start thinking about these things, even if adulthood seems so far away. The truth is, it’s not that far away, and the choices you make now can have a profound impact on your success or failure to reach these goals. And that, in a nutshell, is why your parents nag you.
Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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