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Predictability is the Cousin of Control

Children, like adults, need and want a bit of control over their lives. 

Sometimes adults and children can control things, but more often, we can’t.   What to do?  Remember:  

Predictability is the cousin of control.

So, sure, I would like to control all the messy little loose ends of my life, like: preventing Christmas family drama, or Uncle Jimmy’s tendency to argue about politics, etc, but ever since I misplaced my magic wand, I just can’t.   The next best thing, though, is to remind myself ahead of time about what’s going to happen.  I can’t prevent it, but I can predict it.  It’s amazing how things are less annoying when you remind yourself ahead of time that they are coming.  

Here’s how to make this work for you and your family.

  • Start by identifying the ‘usual suspects,’ whether they are people (Uncle Jimmy) or situations (when Daddy is on an important call) or triggers (too much sugar, not enough sleep).  
  • Then think about what usually happens, both on your part, your child’s part, other players, too, and how it generally turns out.   (This is also a great opportunity to examine the pattern for any possible interventions, BTW.)
  • Stay in touch, so to speak, with your predictions as they come true.  It’s just kind of magical how it lessens the sting of the inevitable. 

Happily, this little lesson is practically universal and wonderfully transferrable.   A few more examples:

  • Children turning in to “Wild and Crazy Guys” when traveling
  • Morning routines
  • How other people will react to our requests/limits/preferences (Do your in-laws take everything the wrong way?)
  • Difficulty separating for school/custody
  • Doctor visits
  • Any kind of unwanted experience that your child will have to endure that can be predicted!

Here’s one final thought about this, that actually deserves its own post (maybe later.)  Sometimes, when kids can’t control things like they want to, THEY create the predictabilty that serves as their consolation prize.   For example:  son wants more positive attention and engagement from his dad, but doesn’t get it, so he provokes his dad into getting mad and punishing him.   (and actually, the kid does get a bit of control in that situation, albeit a dysfunctional control.)

Are there areas of your life where you could identify some predictabilty?