6 Dangers of Being a Control Freak Parent

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Whether you can't stand the thought of your child making a mistake on their homework, or you fear your child won't make good decisions when you're not looking over their shoulder, it can be hard to give your child freedom if you're a bit of a control freak. While it’s not healthy to be a pushover parent, being a control freak is equally problematic.

Control Freak Parenting

If you’re guilty of micromanaging your child's activities, these are the consequences it can have on your child.

You'll Exhaust Your Children

Parents who insist on having a high degree of control over their children often get them involved in many structured activities. From violin lessons to soccer practice, they believe their kids are gaining a competitive edge.

But a 2011 study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that enrolling kids in extracurricular activities did not make them happier, healthier, or more successful. So rushing from one activity to the next may be exhausting your child—and draining your bank account—for no real reason. 

There Won’t Be Natural Consequences

If it’s cold outside and you make your 14-year-old put on a jacket, they won’t learn what happens when they don’t wear one. If you always step in to prevent an argument between children, they won’t learn how to resolve issues on their own.

Allow your children to face natural consequences when it’s safe to do so. That means you’ll have to tolerate watching your child make mistakes or do things that you wouldn’t do. Giving up control can be difficult when you're not used to letting go. 

Creativity Will Be Discouraged

People who want everything to be under control send the message, “There’s only one right way to do this, and that’s my way.” Even though there are many ways to solve a single problem, if you’re a control freak, you’ll discourage any type of creativity.

Remind yourself that your child may have a different way to solve a problem, and it may not necessarily be wrong. Almost every problem has multiple solutions. Be willing to allow your child to explore, learn, and make repeated attempts to solve a problem before you jump in and tell them “how to do it right.”

Kids Pick Up on Anxiety

Most people behave like control freaks because they feel anxious when they feel as though they aren't in control. They think, “If I don’t keep everything under control, something bad will happen.” Kids are perceptive, however, and they’ll pick up on your anxiety quickly, even if it’s never spoken of out loud.

Nervous parents have nervous kids. So it’s important to recognize how your anxiety may get in the way of healthy parenting. Instead of constantly thinking about all the bad things that could happen, work on giving your child the freedom to be a kid.

Kids Fear Mistakes

If you’re constantly monitoring your child’s every move, they are likely going to fear making a mistake. And mistakes can be a great teaching tool. They can help kids learn how to deal with failure.

But if you’re reluctant to give up enough control that your child will be able to make a mistake, they will likely think that mistakes are bad and they may try to cover up any mistakes that they do make. Teach your child that mistakes are okay. Also, talk about the importance of accepting responsibility for their behavior and show them that everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

Mental Health Problems May Increase

Children who have controlling parents are at a higher risk for certain mental health problems. Depression and anxiety can result when parents demand obedience and children don’t have the freedom to express themselves.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that kids with intrusive parents lack effective coping skills. They struggle to deal with anxiety and stress into adulthood. 

Why You Should Let Go

If you find yourself trying to control everything, ask yourself what’s more important—the mess that is going to be left by your child playing with glue, or their overall mental health?

Letting go sometimes and allowing your child the freedom to play can be good not just for them, but for you. Take steps to raise a mentally strong child who is prepared to face life's challenges on their own.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.