When is it ok to lose control of your kids?

Last Updated on August 30, 2016 by Diane Hoffmaster

I’ve never been known as a particularly flexible parent. I wasn’t that mom that let her kids wear pajamas for three days because they were obsessed with Spiderman. They didn’tt go on week long binges of only eating things that are orange. They were not allowed to take all the cans out of my pantry and build their own personal house of cans on my kitchen floor. I’m just not built for that sort of flexibility. I’ve gotten a lot of grief for that over the years from various ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ friends. They didn’t understand that my children napped at 2 PM. Every. Single. Day. Not at 3 PM….not ‘oh, we’ll just skip a day’. Nope. Not in my house.  I ran our household with military precision.

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When is it ok to lose control of your kids?Raising Kids and Losing Control!

So, needless to say I had a lot of control over my kids when they were young. Not that I did not give them choices. Would you like apples or grapes with your snacks? Do you want to wear the red dress or these pink shorts? Do you want to go to the park or story time at the library? Those are all choices that allowed my children a TINY bit of control while still allowing me to have my anal retentive schedule, menu and wardrobe adhered to without argument. It has worked for us for many, many years.  My kids are well adjusted and I am not stressed out because we have no comprehensible schedule.  But, now they are teens.

I have discovered as they have gotten older that I have less and less control over my children.  I don’t get to pick their friends by only inviting certain ones over for playdates.  They eat away from home frequently and will happily inhale every neon blue food or beverage they can find.  I cringe every time I see it.  My children…who have been raised on organic, hormone free milk and non GMO, whole grain crackers are eating neon colored Twizzlers like they are crack.  They have opinions about their clothes that I don’t always agree with.  And since they now have a bit of their own money to spend who am I to tell my daughter she can’t spend it on One Direction socks or 14 neon colored tank tops.  As long as the important parts are covered do I just let it go?

At what point is losing control of your kid an acceptable thing?  And how far to you allow their ‘self expression’ to go before you have to put a halt to their quest for freedom and individuality?  Is it okay to dye your hair purple?  Just because your kid’s hair is purple does it really change who they are as a person?  Can’t purple haired people be on the honor roll and be a hard worker and attend an Ivy League school?  Do we force our children to test the boundaries of our control by making those boundaries too firm? If I say no to purple hair will she one day show up at home with a tattoo?

My kids are just now entering their teen years.  My son will be a Freshman in high school this year.  He is already making choices based on HIS wants and desires as opposed to mine.  Which is a GOOD thing, I know…but it’s hard to realize that my control is beginning to slip. I see the next few years as this out of control slide where they may stay on the right path but they also have a huge chance of going off course and ending up in a ravine, destined to live at home in my basement for the rest of their lives.  All because I gave up control.

So, tell me, fellow parents of teens….how much control do YOU give your kids?  And is it really us giving them the control or them taking it from our hands forcefully?


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  1. I try really hard. I do. It's not in my nature to be flexible. By now with a 16 & 21 year old, I figure that if at the end of the day they are not on drugs, drunk, pregnant or arrested, I'm doing pretty good.
  2. I've got two grown daughters and I parented them very similar to you with "boundaries" aside from the food and healthy living things (hahahaha). I learned that letting them go and allowing them to make their own choices was like a funnel. As they were younger, we lived life at the smaller part of the funnel. More rules, less choices. As they grew older, we moved into the bigger part of the funnel where they were able to make more choices (within reason), and they had much different rules. There was always the underlying family values and expectations and if they took advantage of their "freedom" then we had to take a step back and reevaluate. I think you've given your kids a great foundation for them to grow with!
    • I love your analogy of the funnel...so very accurate! It is hard for me to loosen the reigns sometimes...I guess I worry that they will forget those values I worked so hard to instill!
  3. I have three kids: 22, 18 and 16. My oldest daughter came home from freshman year of college with pink hair. My middle son abandoned lacrosse in his senior year after playing for 9 years. And, my youngest insisted on attending a school that was definitely my second choice, but her first. At some point, they need to make their own decisions (and mistakes). It's hard, but you'll survive -- and they will, too!
    • It is so hard when they start having opinions! Especially when they are different than our own! But, fingers crossed I taught them well and they will turn out ok! Thanks for sharing and for giving me a bit of support!
  4. Great post! You sound so like myself. I loved having set times for everything and order in our household as my boys were growing,. It gave me peace. Now with 2 teen boys, everything is out of my hands and so upsetting! Hopefully they will learn on their own about the crap food, staying up late, and all that, but it's hard to watch. I just keep thinking of my own parents and how they let me do the same and I survived...Seems like some things though they are taking longer to get!! Kim
    • the teen years have definitely been challenging and they do LOVE the junk food! It is so frustrating to see them inhale that junk the way they do!

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