If you are the product of a controlling parent, you are not alone. About one in 13 people in the United States are, according to Dr. Dan Neuharth, a San Francisco marriage and family therapist, in his book “If You Had Controlling Parents.” Many characteristics define controlling parents. What’s common to them all is that controlling parents want the child to please them. They want that more than they want to foster growth in their children. It’s good to understand what makes up a controlling parent so that you won’t repeat the mistakes your parents might have made with you with your own children.
Whether you prefer to call it smothering, being overprotective or helicopter parenting, smothering parents control their children by over coddling, babying and generally not letting their children grow up. These types of parents won’t let their children fail and feel the need to step in to save their children even when they should let them alone. Kids need to learn from their mistakes, says Alistair Macnaughton, a London private schoolmaster. Macnaughton also said that helicopter parents are not a benefit to their children; they are a threat. Parents who control in this manner raise children who cannot make decisions for themselves and can’t deal with disappointments in adulthood.
Depriving parents always want more from their children. They tend to withhold affection if their children don’t do or act as they want. These parents love conditionally and take away affection if they are displeased. Depriving parents threaten to cut off all their children’s money if they plan to marry someone of whom the parents don’t approve, for example. Depriving parents don’t care what their children want or think and tend to give many ultimatums.
People often call perfectionistic mothers “tiger moms,” which usually refers to mothers who push their children to attain the highest achievement levels. The problem with demanding perfectionism is that it deprives children of ever being happy because the goal is one they can never achieve. Perfectionistic parents share a quality of depriving parents; they send a message that if their children are not perfect, they won’t love them. Children raised this way often grow up with low self-esteem and feel they are unworthy of being loved by anyone. These children can wind up with eating disorders, substance abuse issues, depression and anxiety.
Abuse can take the form or verbal, physical or sexual abuses or neglect. The abuser’s goal is to control and dominate. This parent uses fear to control a child’s behavior. When abusers feel rage, they abuse. This fits with the commonality of all types of controlling parents: the needs of the parent come before the needs of the child. Abuse causes a host of problems for children. Attachment disorders can develop where children cannot establish normal relationships. Abused children can be withdrawn and fearful, and abuse can damage a child’s sense of self.