The Stress Of Raising Kids (Part 3)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

The Stress Of Raising Kids Part 3In my first post this week, I listed a number of common problems and situations which can cause parents to become stressed.

Then, in my second post, I highlighted two important child-raising coping skills:



1)    Flexibility/Adaptability

2)    Embracing Uncertainty

Today, for the final post in this series, I want to address two more essential child-rearing coping skills:

3)    Avoiding Unnecessary Control Battles

4)    Setting Limits

Avoiding Unnecessary Control Battles

One of the biggest challenges most parents face, all throughout the different stages of their children’s lives, is knowing when and how to appropriately exercise control.  If you don’t control enough in your child’s life, bad things can happen and this can lead to stress.  On the other hand, if you try to control too much, or if you try to control the wrong things, other bad things can happen, and this too can lead to stress.

Again, there is no training manual for raising kids that can tell you what to do or what not to do.  There are many child-rearing theories, but these differ widely and some directly contradict each other.

The key is to pick your spots wisely, decide on your biggest priorities, and try to avoid getting into unnecessary control battles that you either can’t or shouldn’t try to win.

The desire to over-control is very tempting when you are a parent.  You are so concerned about the safety and well-being of your child that you might want to protect against all possible risks and steer all childhood behaviors to confirm to your optimal goals.  Unfortunately, most human beings, including the children you are raising, don’t like being controlled by others, so there is a natural resistance you are going to have to respect at times and figure out how to overcome at others.

I wish I could tell you exactly what to try to control and exactly what to avoid, but I can’t.  I could give you some examples, but they might not be relevant to your own unique situation.  Obviously, we need to teach our kids to look both ways before crossing a busy street and to not get into cars with strangers offering candy. But beyond some of the basic safety issues, it’s pretty much a grey zone where it’s just as easy to make the wrong call as it is to get it right.

Setting Limits

Along the same line, if you are afraid of taking control as a parent, if you are afraid of making a mistake or of restricting your child’s natural growth and self-expression, you might err on the side of not setting appropriate behavior limits, and this too can lead to a great deal of parental stress.

It’s been said by many child-rearing experts that young children both want and need their parents to set limits.  And while this may be true, I think we’re seeing evidence today that many parents are becoming more and more reluctant to set limits that restrict their children’s choices and options.  Of course, these limits need to change as each child grows and matures, but this type of control is usually necessary, at least to some degree, if you want to minimize the stress of raising kids.

Your Turn Again

Once again, if you want to add some of your own key coping skills or other comments to this discussion, please do so in the comments sections below. 


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Elissa Grunwald May 3, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Our children control our lives and things change when you have kids. Life will never be the same and you learn from your children. Pay attention to their cues, each one is different , each one is there to teach us a lesson of patience , unconditional love and unbelievable growth. Controlling them nah, setting loving calm limits with choices will make parents lives easier. A relaxed parent equals a relaxed child. Allowing them to explore while supervising closely and having them test boundaries and limits with a frowning face an uh oh or a no that looks scary can allow self trust, parental trust and attachments that are safe that lead to happy adults. Can you remember what you disliked as a child. Well learn something new and let your children the experiences while you patiently spot observe and relax. Neurosis breeds neurosis and calm parenting is a feat in a multitasking world of stress but let us not let that stress interfere with healthy satisfied growth in a normal child’s development. A anxious child requires more time and energy and the family that learns to create an atmosphere of calm will see a child who will be able to navigate in the world with a clear calm head. Teach your children “don’t get yourself into something you can’t get out of; ” can you climb that rope? Talk it through and step by step talk them down if they choose to climb ( when they are ready of course) and they will learn self confidence and trust. Relax moms and dads enjoy these children they are only young once make it a happy time!!!! Great article!


christina chambreau May 5, 2013 at 11:04 AM

For me the biggest key is letting go of the thought that there is a right way to raise children. Frequently I re-read the page in The Prophet by Kahil Gibran for he says our children are really on their own path. They are unique and not to be shaped by us. “You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls, ”

This reminder helps me forgive all the times I re-think and harshly judge myself after an interaction with a child/young person.

The happier we are and the more we show who we are to our children, the more we give them permission to fully be themselves. Walking with my daughter one day, I stopped to pick up a trash can that had rolled into the street and she said, “I knew you would do that.”


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