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Why Do Children Try to Control Parents?

by Nicole Harms

When you ask your child to put on his blue tennis shoes, he may comply or he may lay on the floor, shrieking at the top of his lungs that he wants to wear his red tennis shoes. It seems that most kids will have times when they will try to control their parents. Parents who are in the midst of control battles may be interested to know that this behavior is a normal part of development, and the right strategies can help both parents and children cope.

Why Controlling Behavior Begins

Children often begin trying to control their parents in the toddler years, according to the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. This occurs because the child begins to realize that she is a separate entity from the parent with some control over her life. This drive to do things for herself is one way she can build her own self-confidence. Parents can deal with this change more easily if they realize it is a normal art of their children's development.

The Impact of Temperament

The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families warns that some children will have more of a desire for control than others. Those who have easygoing and flexible temperaments are not going to try to control their parents as much as those with intense emotional reactions or those who are shy and timid. The reason for this is because children with the more extreme temperaments feel more stress when they are asked to make changes and, thus, will try to control their parents to avoid the change.

Using Choices to Avoid Battles

The key to dealing with controlling behavior, according to the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, is to channel that desire for control in a positive way. One way to do this to give them choices, as the University of Wisconsin recommends. Make the choices things you are willing to allow, and then go with the choice the child makes. This gives the child the feeling of being in control, while still keeping behavior within the boundaries the parent sets.

Use Humor to Deflect Controlling Behavior

No matter what you do, there will be times when your child tries to control you. When this happens, pay as little attention as possible to the controlling behavior. Try to deflect the child's energy with humor. For example, you can pretend to put your child's shoes on your own foot, laughing with him when you fail. This can take the child's attention away from what he does not want to do and give him the emotional fortitude to make the transition. Above all, avoid giving in to your child's desire for control, as this will only make the next tantrum or control battle more intense, warns the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families.

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