Mama Mantras: There's No Control Like Self-Control

By Sydney Dorr

Hey, Mama! Here’s your mantra:

There’s no control like self-control.

Does that kind of bum you out? Yeah, sorry, me too. That’s because I want to control, well, everything. I especially want to control my kids, because life would be so easy and beautiful if they just did exactly what I say. But after almost 5 years of motherhood, I’ve finally (mostly) accepted that the only person I can actually control is, in fact, me. And when I focus on doing that, momming is much more pleasant.

The other day I told the boys to put on their shoes, while they jumped on the bed and completely ignored me. “Boys. We need to go. Come get your shoes on,” Still zero response. “GIDEON!” (I know, I know, raise your words not your voice). No one even glanced in my direction. My lack of control in the situation was infuriating and I could tell that I was about to let those undisciplined punks have it. Instead, I spun on my heel and stomped off to the laundry room, locking myself in. Real mature-like.  As I breathed deeply, the boys ceased jumping and chased me down. “Mom! MOOOOOM! LET US IN! MOM WE’LL LISTEN! MOM!” After a minute I quietly opened the door and confronted them with a raised eyebrow for a little teaching moment. “Hey. It doesn’t feel very good when you are trying to talk to someone and they ignore you, does it?” Sheepish assent. “Ok. Why don’t you say ‘Sorry, Mama, for ignoring you’ and then get your shoes on.” And they apologized and put on their darn shoes. It was magical.

What I love about this mantra is that it is so practical – in tense moments I can always ask myself “What can I do right now?” When I stop trying to make our day run smoothly by controlling my kids, I find that there are actually a bunch of things I can do that depend only on me. Instead of nagging them to clean up, put on shoes, or stop whining, I just tell them what I’m going to do. I say things like “I can give you lunch once the toys are picked up,” “I’m going to wait outside until you’re ready,” and “I can talk to you when you use a normal voice.” 

This way, my days are way more enjoyable. I mean, not kid-free-on-a-beach relaxed, but a lot better than when I’m using all my energy trying to convince stubborn people to do what I say. It is so much easier to control myself and let my kids make their own choices – and face their own consequences. Because sometimes they make poor choices and then have to walk home in wet clothes after their mom told them not to jump back and forth over the creek. 

Sometimes there are moments when l say things like “I have to put you in your car seat because you chose not to get in yourself” and “I have to hold you tightly so the dentist can look at your teeth.” Side note – when restraining a 4-year-old at the dentist, it’s crucial to wrap your arms and legs around him. Ask me how I know. But even in those moments, my focus is on staying calm and doing what I need to as a last-resort option; not on feeling frustrated that my kid won’t obey. 

So, who’s with me? Who wants to feel the freedom of letting go of controlling our younglings and instead controlling ourselves? It might seem like a bummer at first glance, but when you look closely, it’s almost like being kid-free on the beach. Almost.

Whitney ParnellComment