The following is not a joke.

I know a mother who considered faking a robbery (jewelry, passports, iPad) from her Mexican hotel room safe so that her college-age son couldn’t return to school in the United States before their family vacation was over.

Parenting is tricky and while there is no one “best” way to parent, I’m pretty certain that stealing your son’s passport so that he is unable to leave the country isn’t a good thing to do.

“What we are teaches the child more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.” Joseph Chilton Pearce.

(Unless she wanted her child to be a thief or a custom’s agent, taking his passport wasn’t an ideal solution.)

Most parents, at some point or another, have probably manipulated their children and not with bad intent. They honestly believe they know better.

And I’m as guilty as any parent. Once, I insisted my first grader recreate the solar system for his science fair project when he wanted to make a…

Isn’t that interesting?

I can’t even remember what he wanted to make.

That was a long time ago; and I’ve learned, over the years, not to micro-manage my children. Not only is it not helpful, it’s harmful.

According to Debbie Pincus MS LMHC, a parent who micromanages their child’s life will answer “yes” to one or more of these questions:

  • Must it be your way and only your way? Are you always right?
  • Do you threaten, lecture, warn, or order your kids around in a barking kind of tone?
  • Do you often do things your child can do for himself because you think you can do it better or “the right way?”
  • Do you tend to make decisions for your child? Do you often use bribes to get him to do what you want him to do?
  • Do you give him little freedom to think for himself?

I wish I could take back the time my 3-year-old son wanted to buy red sneakers and I wanted him to buy black ones. I couldn’t get him to agree with me, so I didn’t tell him but I told the salesperson to wrap up the black ones. Later that night, when he opened the box to show his father his new red sneakers, I cannot describe the disappointment on his face, in his body, when he saw black sneakers. I knew at that moment I had made a colossal mistake and went back the next day for the red ones.

What made me think I was right or that I knew better?

As much as I hate thinking about that memory, and how deflated my son was knowing I’d tricked him, I know it was then that I decided never again.

Since then, he’s gone through many phases: worn his jet-black hair with a streak of blonde, both long and short. He’s grown a beard and still wears (in my view) the most outrageous sneakers.

Childhood trauma. It shows up in the most uncanny ways.