I recently counseled two mothers; one wanted to know how to “control the child’s behavior,” and the other, how to “get him to do…”    

These moms had a lot in common.  Firstly, the feeling of being a failure.  Secondly, their goals are ‘MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.’    

It may surprise some of us, but there is no way to control someone else’s behavior.  Yes, even our children’s behavior.  We guide, influence, and enable, but the outcome is not in our hands.  Rest assured that the average parent does his best to that end, according to his values and lifestyle, and that’s it.  We can want something to happen with all our hearts, but it will come about when the child takes the step.  Any effort to cause or control is as effective as trying to blow away clouds on a rainy day when you want to go on an excursion; no one would ever try to do that.  Yet when it comes to our children’s behavior, we pull out all stops to control or get it to change.   

Something else that both mothers had in common was feeling drained, which isn’t surprising since they had been exerting enormous energy and had achieved no results.  That’s tiring and frustrating too!   

I asked each mother respectively if the fact that it’s not in her hands makes her feel like a failure or, perhaps, it’s liberating.  They both noted feeling relief.     

It’s not because they don’t care about their child.  It’s because they became aware of the difference between caring and taking responsibility for something not theirs.  That’s liberating, empowering, and the opposite of feeling like a failure.   

It’s not to say that the child won’t change behavior.  However, it’s not the mother, even with the best intentions, who can cause or control it. 

Guess who can?   

I rest my case.  

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