I don't think people without kids should give parenting advice they just thought up, but passing on research done by scientists is surely fine?
Anyway, this is about 'behavioural control' vs 'psychological control'. Behavioural control is telling your kids what to do; psychological control is telling them what to feel. The first is necessary and good, the second is destructive and you should avoid it as much as you possibly can.
In other words:
Don't yell ✔️
Don't be angry ❌
At least try one piece of pineapple ✔️
You love pineapple! ❌
Kids are learning emotional literacy, and mislabelling emotions is confusing and makes it harder to process them. Think of all the adults you know who are bad at recognising their own emotions! This is not stuff we are currently nailing, as a culture.
A tenet of healthy adult psychology is that there's no such thing as a wrong emotion, only wrong actions. Feeling jealous of your girlfriend, while unpleasant, is perfectly ethical. Texting your girlfriend 40 times while she's out with male friends is not fine. But the thing is, that will be so much harder to avoid doing if you don't admit to yourself that you're feeling jealous, because jealousy is a wrong emotion. You might say you're just worried about her, an acceptable emotion.
So, telling kids what they do, or should, feel, is setting them up for that type of adult disaster. (Plus, they might end up with the quite false idea that whether it's okay to text your girlfriend 40 times to check up on her depends on whether you're feeling jealous or worried - that it's the motivation/emotion not the action/effect that determines moral behaviour.)
Also, psychological control leads to kids with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
I'm pretty sure all our parents did this to some extent, but I'm also pretty sure all of us had to (or should) work to undo the effects of it.
This piece was originally published in The Whippet #49 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!
Sign in or become a Whippet subscriber (free or paid) to add your thoughts.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.
A newsletter for the terminally curious
Arrives in your inbox every second Thursday.