The Need to Control

Sometimes the egg will fall, and that's okay.

Christina Corcoran

2 min read

white egg
white egg

There's many aspects of perfectionism that operate on a subconscious level and one of them is the need to control.

Control makes us feel safe. If we do x, y, and z then hopefully nothing bad will happen. We spend a lot of energy trying to prevent messes, accidents, and mistakes, but at what cost? When our child asks to paint, do we hover and help too much? When our child wants to help cook, do we give them the opportunity to miss the bowl, spill the milk, or let the egg roll off the counter? Or do we hold the spoon with them and eventually take over because it's just easier and cleaner to do it ourselves? These are just a couple examples of times I have struggled with over control. My intentions were not bad, but because I was unable to let my little ones explore and learn free from my intervention, I robbed them of the full experience. The experience is more than just painting a picture or making banana bread, it is learning hand-eye coordination, controlling the speed of movements, and equally important -- deciding how to react when a mistake is made.

How can they learn how to cope with mistakes, if they are not given the chance to fail? It also sends a message that the activity is only worthwhile if it is done perfectly. This is where the seeds of fear start. Over time their internal voice tells them, If I don't do this perfectly -- on my first try -- then I'm a failure. Sure, little kids need our assistance, but we have to know when to step back. They will get overly dependent on us and before you know it, you have a first grader believing she needs her mom's help tying her shoes when she is totally capable of doing it herself.

The need to control is not an easy thing to turn off. The first step is awareness. This is one of many topics in my upcoming book for parents. Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on my book's progress and to learn more about perfectionism