• Losing Parental Control: Reducing the Struggle — excerpt from Losing Control, Finding Serenity

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    Shutterstock image by Larisa Lofitskaya

    (The following is the second excerpt from Losing Control, Finding Serenity. Read the first excerpt. Read the second excerpt.)

    Victoria never played soccer herself, but she became an avid fan of the sport in a short amount of time. Soccer brought out Victoria's competitive spirit. When her twelve-year-old son, Tim, made the all-star AYSO team, Victoria was only too happy to take him to the two weekday practices and the weekend games. Tim loved playing, and he worked hard to improve his game. He was making steady progress, but this was not fast enough for Victoria. In her mind, Tim was not trying hard enough. She believed that he needed to be more aggressive to reach the "next level." Nothing irked her more than to see another player beat her son to the ball.

    And so Victoria, ever the controller, constantly pushed Tim to be more aggressive on the field. Her shouts could be heard above everyone else's. Tim complained to his mom that she was distracting him during the game. But this didn't deter her. During one important tournament game, Victoria loudly criticized Tim in front of the other parents for backing off some bigger opponents. Tim was so embarrassed that he walked off the field crying, right in the middle of the game. He told Victoria he didn't want to play anymore.

    Unfortunately, such stories are all too common in childhood sports. To see what's really at stake, just go to a league game in almost any sport and witness who suffers most from a loss and who takes longer to get over it! Here's a clue: it is not the child.

    Excessive parental control extends well beyond the playing field. It pervades the classroom, artistic performance, religious observance, childhood friendships, and social activities, all with equally troubling consequences.

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  • Fear: Control's Best Friend — excerpt from Losing Control, Finding Serenity

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    Shutterstock image by Bianda Ahmad Hisham

    (The following is the second excerpt from Losing Control, Finding Serenity. Read the first excerpt.)

    Flashback to November 2008. Breaking news: investor panic causes Bear Stearns to go belly-up in a few short days. Several weeks later Lehman Brothers goes under. The financial travails reported by the Wall Street Journal and CNN grow more alarming by the day. Huge IndyMac Bank is taken over by the Feds. Large European banks are on the verge of insolvency. Pundits use new and confusing financial vocabulary to describe some of the culprits: Derivatives. Credit default swaps. Mortgage-backed securities.

    In short, we are in a full-blown credit crisis, the likes of which have not been seen since the Great Depression. No one knows when it will end, how bad it will get, or what to do. Everyone blames everyone else, citing a litany of contradictory reasons. Confusion, uncertainty, distrust, and fear abound. Our money may no longer be safe at our own banks. The government is forced to step in to bail out banks and pass emergency legislation that few understand.

    Pervasive fear had also entered the life of Reese, a home painting contractor who was finally living the American dream. Three years ago Reese purchased a three-bedroom home with a 5 percent down payment and easy subprime financing. He soon added a swimming pool and outdoor recreation room to the home. He had both an investment account and a retirement account at a large brokerage firm and a savings account at a local bank. His daughter, Kim, just finished her second year of college. Life was good for Reese and his family at the start of 2008.

    In the ensuing months, however, Reese took a big hit. The mutual funds and stocks in his brokerage accounts had dropped 35 percent in value. His house decreased 30 percent in value since the beginning of the year. Like many homeowners, he owed more than the house was worth. Moreover, his painting contracts were down 25 percent in October 2008, and November was looking worse. What home-owner wants to continue paying for a house in which he has no equity and when he feels his job may be in jeopardy? Reese cut back on personal and business expenses but was still losing money each month. And how could he tell his daughter that he could not pay next year's college tuition?
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  • The Compulsion to Control: Book excerpt from Losing Control, Finding Serenity

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    Control panel photo by Led Chatfield. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

    (This is the first in a series of three excerpts from Losing Control, Finding Serenity.)

    "Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for insects as well as for the stars. Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper."
    — Albert Einstein, interview, The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929

    Setting Limits is One Thing, But. . .

    Life without control in some form would create havoc. Rigid control procedures are essential in such areas as science, medicine, and manufacturing, which require high degrees of efficiency and safety. Most societal and institutional forms of control — laws, regulations, procedures, and the like — are also important for our overall well-being and safety. Similarly, in interpersonal settings such as the workplace, the home, and the classroom, appropriate levels of control are necessary to assure productivity, education, and safety.

    Most of us, however, feel the pressure to control all aspects of our lives. We take for granted that that's what we should be doing — what we must be doing to survive. This goes beyond setting limits and standards, and often we don't even realize how far beyond we take it. How often do we stop to question how our compulsion to control may be harming us, whether at home with our children and family, at work, in our friendships, or in our leisure activities?

    Young or old, male or female, rich or poor, teacher or preacher — we all have the compulsion to control. Control is a deeply ingrained part of our human condition. Indeed, it underlies the entire fabric of society. Our workplaces are hotbeds for control as the "survival of the fittest" is played out through intimidation, deception, and the drive to get ahead at all costs. On the world stage, powerful nations control by imposing their values and forms of government on weaker nations. And, of course, war is all about control.

    Social institutions of all kinds try to control. Religion is controlling when it tells us what and how we should believe, lest dire consequences come our way. The political arena is rife with control strategies. Misinformation about candidates is broadly disseminated to discredit them and change voters' minds. High-stakes bartering is employed to force through partisan legislation. On the home front, we control our partners and family by telling them what they should do and criticizing their choices. We control our friends by trying to change them. We even control in love by lavishing gifts and doling out kind words to court favor, crying to churn a lover's heart, pushing "hot buttons" to punish, and calculating when and how to bring sexual pleasure to our mate. (more…)