How Much Are You Unnecessarily Controlling Your Kids?

I’ve been reading some posts lately on forums and magazines that have made me think about control and how much we use it automatically and unnecessarily with our kids. I’ve heard parents say unexpectedly that her daughter threw a tantrum that she couldn’t have her favorite show this morning because she has already watched one show, or couldn’t have a favorite food because she was only allowed that after lunch.
Why not just let her watch her show or eat her food if it meant that much to her?
I just sometimes wonder, if this was your partner or husband saying this, controlling you to this level, if you would think its acceptable? Why do we feel the need to control everything our children do and have? How much TV, what type of food and when, when they go to bed and where, sometimes even what they play with, who they play with, when they play. When they tidy up, what they wear, what school to go to, and even the fact the have to go to school in the first place. Why do we feel because they are younger they are completely incapable of deciding what they want for themselves, or even whats good for them?  They may need a little bit of help figuring things out in the early years, but thats where we can be their partners, not their masters.
Its as if society doesn’t have respect for children’s own autonomy.
I wonder what it is we’re scared of? What will happen if they eat that food at that time of day? If they dont tidy up when we say? What stories do we tell ourselves about it? I doubt they’re true, just beliefs passed down through generations mainly. TV is meant to be some great evil, they shouldn’t be watching TV because they should be outside playing, too much tv with rot their minds, but did you know books also were thought to rot the brain when they were first invented? Its true.

As with sweets and sugar, there was a study of children, who had all different foods put out for them including sweets and they could choose exactly what they wanted. At first they went for the sweets as they had always been restricted, but after a few days they regulated their food intake and also made very healthy food choices so they had a very balanced diet.
There was another study done in Illinois a few years ago. They observed 77 children between the ages of 2 and 4 and also looked at how much their parents controlled their eating habits. They found that the children whose parents made them eat only during meal times rather than when they were hungry, used dessert as a reward or expected them to clean their plates even when they weren’t hungry, lost the ability to regulate their caloric intake.
Maybe I’m quite radical on my parenting style, but I believe in letting my children have the things that they want as much as is possible. Why should I restrict something just for the sake of restricting, or because I’ve been told that if I give them too much they’ll get spoilt.
Parenting is about modelling. If I’m generous with my time, my attention, my love, my ability to meet their needs, even if that is for a favorite TV show or a favorite food, over and over again all day, then I know I’m raising generous kids who will go out of their way to meet others needs. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think below and get to know more about you! :)


Emma Combes

Emma helps parents overcome the automatic negative reactions that are stopping them from parenting consciously and with love through her coaching practice. She also helps parents live the most awesome life in all areas, so they can know they were the best role model they could be for their children.

  • Clare Kirkpatrick

    Great post! Love reading things like this :)

    • Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Thanks Clare!  Nice to see you here! :)

  • Analytical Armadillo

    I agree with lots, except for the tidying.  I’m a firm believer in things are put away after they’re used, otherwise things get broken, stood on, lost and one of my kids is more than happy to sit waist deep in a mess (she doesn’t ever get the overwhelming urge to tidy, I know as I’ve waited it out before!) 

    • Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Hi AA, I think that’s sensible :)  I think when its parents insisting on arbitary rules or barking orders ‘just becuase’ then thats when the problem starts.  My eldest is 2 so its still at the point where I am tidying up for him :)  although with him and an overacctive 5 month old the house is never tidy!  :) 

  • Misslouby

    This is completely right up my street! Thank heavens I caught this to read. I never set out to be this kind of mum, I really just fell into it naturally, people think I am mad too.
    I never dictate what my boy should and shouldn’t do, he has free rein of the fridge and cupboards, toys, beds! ‘He’ll be spoilt’ or ‘He’ll run rings round you when he’s older’ are comments I hear all the time, the best one is how lazy I am not to bother giving him structure.
    Now, he does have a slight routine, but absolutely nothing set in stone. And if he shows ge doesn’t like or want to do something, then we don’t do it.
    He might *only* be 17 months old but I firmly believe he can and will make his own decisions. He hardly ever tantrums too :)

    • Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Thanks Misslouby!  Thats great you havent had many tantrums! :)  Its funny how some people think you can spoil a child by letting them make their own decisions isnt it?  Its so wonderful that you ‘fell into it’ as you say, not letting other peoples opinions sway you from what feels ‘right’ to you! 

  • Nina Killen

    I am totally with you on the food – I do not understand why parents get so uptight about food. No child ever starved himself to death so just give them healthy choices and they will eat enough. Giving them a biscuit because they ate some pasta seems so backward to me!

    • Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Hi Nina, thanks for commenting.  I used to be more uptight about food in terms of sweets etc, and I was only thinking today how much more relaxed I’ve become.  Sounds like you were there from the get go, thats fantastic!  :)  Its true, they seems to regulate themselves regardless of how much they are eating on each individual day. 

  • Janeanie1

    I believe in giving choices to a point, but I also think you have to have restrictions and boundaries. Children need to learn that there are rules (in your home and in society) that they are going to have to follow. They are not always going to be indulged by others. They are not always going to be able to watch and eat what they want. I don’t see an issue with controlling this. There have been many studies about t.v. and the effects of it. There are also studies about how affective nature is for kids behaviors/attitudes. As far as food goes, I don’t really see an issue with food. I don’t think sweets should be given all the time just b/c they want them, but I do think if you restrict them to an obsessive level kids will crave them and grow up to eat very unhealthy.

    • Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Hi Janeanie1!  :)  Thanks for your comment.  I hear that you believe your children need to have certain restrictions and boundaries.  I agree there are rules and boundaries in society in general that are all around us and that children need to be aware of them and follow them where neccessary.  For me personally, I dont feel that allowing my children the things they want, as much as is possible, means they will be unable to learn about outside laws, values, principles or rules, or that in someone elses house it may be different. :) From what I’ve experienced so far, when I have this respectful relationship with my children, they seem to understand and be able to cope better with times when they may not be able to have or do something, as they genuinely believe and know that I am on their side and wanting to help meet their needs.  I hope that makes sense :)  I’ve heard of the studies on T.V you mention too.  Like you I would be concerned if my child just wanted to sit home all day and watch TV endlessly, but the fact is they never do!  :)  I do think sometimes we have fears our children wont be able to regulate themselves, in my experience its not true.  Thankyou so much for your comments, all opinions are always welcome here!  It really provides food for thought for all of us and for those reading this, so its great to get different opinions! 

  • SALin

    I agree with this but to a point.  If I let my children do what they want, they would be out playing on the street with their neighbourhood friends until 10pm each night and be too tired for school in the morning.  They would go out of sight, down to the duck pond, where it just isn’t safe.  With food though I guess if we don’t have junk in the house, yes they can eat what they want, because if we had junk I know one of them would eat nothing but.  However, if I don’t make them ask me about what they can have, and restrict them to put a few in a bowl, they take the whole packet outside, and waste half of it, plus they have no room left for a nice wholesome dinner.  Also, like somebody mentioned below, if I didn’t make them tidy, they would forever tell me they will do it later, never do it, and my house would be a horror story to live in.
    So I do allow them more than some, but do have to reign them in or they just go too far.  It may be our particular circumstances, or their ages, but I couldn’t let them make all of their own choices.  I have read studies to find that children prefer some rules as it gives them some security also.

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