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You Don’t Want to Micromanage Your Family: How to Stop Parenting With Anxiety

micromanage your family

Do you have this little suspicion that you’ve fallen into micromanaging your family? Truthfully, if you’re parenting with a lot of anxiety, chances are you have. It happens so naturally! When you’re worried, it’s easy to grasp at the things you can control. Maybe your child isn’t making the best choices, and you’re scared of what will happen. So you begin to control and to nag. Unfortunately, your micromanagement response pushes your child further away. It’s such an easy trap to fall into!

You don’t want to be a micromanaging parent, but anxiety and control often run together in parenting. Sadly, parenting with anxiety and micromanagement can rob you of joy, contentment, and peace. They rob your kids of encouragement and independence. In my parenting, and in coaching countless parents, I’ve noticed the spiraling impact of parenting with anxiety. The good news? You can stop parenting in this way. Read on for 5 steps to equip you to focus on the truth about your child while building wisdom and independence.

Why do parents micromanage their kids?

Will my kids choose good friends? Will they do well academically? Will they make wise choices when I’m not around to guide them? It’s normal to consider questions like these. However, if you feel the answer is “no” to any of those reflective questions, anxiety can begin to rise. And that’s when so many of us will start micromanaging our kids.

Control is your brain’s natural coping response. When you feel internally out of control, your brain wants you to take charge of the situation so that you can feel less anxious. This kind of reaction is problematic for parenting. Why? Because you cannot parent from wisdom when your brain is stuck in an anxiety-control pattern.

(Imagine how it would feel to have a boss at work notice a drop in your performance and then respond by reading your every email and checking every one of your reports!)

The cycle of anxiety and the micromanaging parent

The more I parent from a place of anxiety, the more likely I am to project a negative future for my kids. That, in turn, makes it more likely they will begin living out that projection.

As they live out my negative projections, I rationalize doing things for them that they ought to be responsible for themselves…

Which builds their resentment and resistance towards me…

Which feeds my anxiety…

And the cycle goes on and on…

The cycle of anxiety and micromanagement might look something like this:

Parent Anxiety Cycle 1 2

What happens when you micromanage the unmotivated child?

Ever met a child like this?

  • Has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
  • Is disinterested in school
  • Struggling academically
  • Resists chores and responsibilities
  • Doesn’t care if their bedroom is unmanageably messy
  • Only gets excited about screen time

It is the perfect storm for parental anxiety and micromanagement. If you see this in your child, it’s hard not to project into the future!

You might fall into coaxing, bribing, nagging, yelling, and constant reminding.

If you’re unsure whether you’re falling into micromanagement, check the language you use.

Often, the problem has words of ownership you might use like, “We need to get to school on time today.” or “We are going to be late.”

Wait. Did you catch that? Do you see the word “we”? “We are going to be late for school”? When it’s worded this way, who really owns this problem?

By the time you reach this point in the relationship, especially with a teen, resentment has most likely built up. Extracting yourself from this cycle is neither easy nor painless, but it is possible. It’s also necessary for the long-term health and well-being of your child.

Feeling anxious in your parenting?

Check out our FREE PDF called, “100 Truth Phrases to Keep You Going”. It’s filled with encouragement to equip you to be the parent you long to be.

5 tips (exit strategies) to STOP micromanaging your family

Picture the cycle above as a traffic roundabout on which you travel faster and faster the longer you’re on it. Then, imagine the exits that you can take with a bit of thoughtfulness:

1. Bring your anxiety to God, not to your child. 

When you need your child to act a certain way, reflect on why. One dad was harsh about his son’s disastrous bedroom. He equated his son’s messy room, complete with drawers hanging out, as a sign that he had failed as a dad. His plaguing thought was, “If Jason can’t even push in a drawer, how will he ever be able to hold a decent job?”

Are you giving your kids control over your sense of value and even your identity as a mom or dad? Change starts with honest introspection:

  • When my child has a good day and gets a decent grade, do I feel more confident about my parenting?
  • When my child barely rolls out of bed, forgets his backpack, and flunks a test, do I lose it?

This power over your mood is way too much responsibility for kids to handle.

Consider: “How can I be okay even if my child continues to struggle?” A helpful phrase to remember: “My child is not my report card. Jesus is my report card.”

And by the way, Jesus loves both of you! I Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you…” and for your child!

Parent Anxiety Cycle 2

2. Focus on the truth about your child. 

Ask God how he sees your child. Does God see them as a messed up, hopeless cause? The answer is probably vastly different from your current view. Repeating truth-filled phrases changes our beliefs. Changing our beliefs, in turn, changes our thinking, feelings, and actions.

You could try telling yourself a truth: “If my child fails this class [or keeps a messy room], they will grow and learn and have an opportunity to do better in the future. I will have an opportunity to communicate truly unconditional love.”

Are you having trouble coming up with a truth phrase? Check out our FREE PDF, “100 Truth Phrases to Keep You Going.”

“My child is not my report card. Jesus is my report card.”

3. Empower respectful honesty.

One mom of teens was a self-described micromanager about chores and general responsibility. She admitted it and told her kids she was working to let them be responsible for their lives. She also equipped them with a simple, respectful script to confront her when she slipped into old habits: “Mom, I’m feeling micromanaged right now.” This prompted her to do a “do-over” in the interaction and helped her kids grow in responsibility and wisdom.

4. Encourage your child! 

Make an extra effort to connect in ways your child enjoys in spite of challenging behavior. Find things to affirm:

  • What is your child doing well?
  • What is she good at?
  • When do you see him excited about something?
  • How can you better connect with your child and meet them where they’re at?
  • Tell them how what they are doing blesses others.

5. Be a great resource for your child.

But without taking over their responsibilities.

This takes skill and communication. It’s tempting to go to the other extreme with a response like, “FINE. I’m not going to do this for you anymore. I’ve done my best, but you obviously don’t want my help.”

That’s not what your child needs either.

Ask curious and respectful questions like:

  • “What do you need from me to be successful in getting your chores done [or getting out of bed]?”
  • “How would you like to communicate with me about school?” As a parent coach, I generally recommend a once-per-week check-in for information purposes for the parent. (Not a weekly lecture time!)
  • “Can you tell me more about what is frustrating to you about this?”

Don’t give up on your relationship with your child

It’s so easy to get stuck on the parental anxiety-micromanagement cycle. You get on it because you want to help so badly, but it quickly becomes discouraging to both you and your child. If this describes you, there’s plenty of hope. You can exit the cycle of anxiety and learn to communicate your love and confidence in your kids.

As you do, you’ll strengthen your relationship and build genuine respect with them. And you just might see them become more responsible!

Apply it now

  • Try taking a step back, praying, and thinking ahead. “How can I better connect with my child and get away from my own agenda?”
  • “Where is the best place for me to exit the off-ramps from the micromanagement diagram above?”
  • “How could I remind myself to stop micromanaging when my kids are struggling?”
© 2016, 2020, 2024 Connected Families
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Chad Hayenga
Chad Hayenga
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