For Their Own Good

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Is it ever worth it for parents to control their children?

Parents want what is best for their children. Sometimes, they use coercive measures to make sure their children do what is in their own best interest. But they don’t necessarily consider the cost of making kids do something, especially when it’s supposedly for the child’s own good.

Imagine I want something good for my child, maybe something from the list below. For this hypothetical example, I’ll use “good grades.”

Table 1. Common Desirable Outcomes

Table 1. Common Desirable Outcomes

How will I get my child to achieve good grades? The most straightforward approach is to simply mandate good grades. I can use at least one of the control measures from the list below.

Table 2. Common Control Measures

Table 2. Common Control Measures

I can choose to use criticism. Imagine that day after day I am censuring my child about how homework should be done earlier; issuing disapproval over quiz scores; finding fault with how their schoolbag is organized, and carping about their general lack of focus on schoolwork.

What do I get for my efforts? It turns out my child’s grades do improve. This is good for my child. I expect it will enhance their career prospects and general quality of life. I believe my control tactics were worth it. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Immediate Result of Parental Control

Figure 1. The Immediate Result of Parental Control

Over time, the unexpected happens. My criticism grows up. It and turns into something else, something heavy.

What does my criticism turn into? We cannot predict with certainty what it will turn into. We can, however, consider several outcomes that are strongly associated with parental control, and be relatively certain that my coercive measures are driving my child toward at least one of them. Let’s randomly pick one or two of the options from the list below. I’ll roll the dice.

Table 3. Common Long-Term Outcomes of Parental Control   NOTE: Roll a pair of six-sided dice to see what outcome you get. If you roll doubles, you get to roll again.

Table 3. Common Long-Term Outcomes of Parental Control

NOTE: Roll a pair of six-sided dice to see what outcome you get. If you roll doubles, you get to roll again.

I rolled a seven: Anxiety. My child has developed anxiety. That is what I get for my criticism. The scales appear to have tipped. What’s more, the good grades may have evaporated. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Long-Term Result of Parental Control

Figure 2. The Long-Term Result of Parental Control

Anxiety is pretty heavy indeed. It is not something I want for my child. I was trying to act in my child’s best interest, but seem to have done the opposite. I cannot now reverse what I’ve done. No one can undo years of daily criticism.

Was it worth it?


How to Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “For Their Own Good”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date], https://www.thekindofparentyouare.com/articles/for-their-own-good.