The child’s tool

Control is the child’s basic tool.

As kids we have no power, no ability to take care of ourselves.  We need big people, like parents, to do that.

And we use control to make sure those big people do their job.

We learn this before we have language.  We learn it the first time we cry and mom picks us up and feeds or rocks us or changes our diaper.  “Hey,” we realize.  “What I do affects what she does.”

And the urge to control is born.

We spend childhood learning thousands of ways to control big people:

Want mom to love you?  Don’t talk back.

Want dad to be proud of you?  Get straight A’s.

Want teacher’s approval? Do your homework.

Want to avoid being bullied?  Appease the tough kid.

This is how we navigate through early life.

For a kid, there’s no other way.

Of course, at some point we’re supposed to develop some power — the ability able to stand up for and take care of ourselves.

But many of us don’t.  Many of us (especially if we’ve been abused or traumatized) stay stuck in kid mode.

We keep relying on control to get our needs met and manage relationships.  We keep seeking approval and avoiding conflict.  We hide who we are, bury our true feelings, and try our damnedest to be whatever we think others want us to be.

Most of the time we do this without even realizing we’re doing it.

And that’s the basic problem of all control addicts.

They’re stuck with the tool of a child to cope with the life of an adult.


2 responses to “The child’s tool

  • leb105

    this still is a brain-twister for me! For the kid to think he’s controlling mom by not talking back – seems backward! Isn’t Mom controlling him by discouraging behavior she doesn’t like? Or Kid avoids Angry Mom if he keeps his head down?

    • Steve Hauptman

      It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. Both the mom and the kid are trying to control each other — just in different ways. Mom’s controlling (“Don’t you take that tone with me”) is overt — observable and obvious — where the kid’s controlling (“Yes, mommy”) is covert — hidden or disguised. Most kids are already expert at controlling adults in this way by the time they reach kindergarten, and if not, school teaches them pretty damn fast.

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