Help your child and you gain control |

Help your child and you gain control

Youth zone
Evan Zislis
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I am a control freak. My adult freakishness most likely began sometime in middle school, during the days when I was relentlessly bullied by the older boys in my school. During that stressful time, I remember racing home after school with my French horn case and my over-stuffed backpack, ducking and hiding behind bushes and mailboxes, in order to avoid the imminent ambush on the bike path.

Many adolescents and pre-teens feel like they suddenly lose control of the world around them. Peer pressures, expectations from parents and teachers, the need to fit in with older kids, the physical and emotional changes that happen through puberty ” this ruthless series of rapid-fire and seemingly uncontrollable circumstances in a youth’s life often helps to transform them into control freaks, like me, later in life.

Back then, to offset my overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety regarding the uncontrollable bullies in my neighborhood, I began grasping at to anything that I felt I could organize, manage and maintain control over. I had a system for organizing my room ” though it looked like a hurricane, I knew the system. Slowly, I became one of those kids who would make wise-cracks about other kids in an attempt to regain my sense of self-esteem and confidence. I tirelessly argued with my family at home, desperately trying to assert myself as an important person, miserably overcompensating for my feelings of inadequacy and defeat at school.

Working with youth and families through YouthZone, I have learned more about myself in the last eight months than the previous 33 years combined. I have learned to give up some of my habitual need for control. I have learned that as much as I want the young people I work with to succeed, I have to let go and support them on their own journey of learning and experience. My need to insist on their success or supporting them to the extent that I am doing the work for them only robs them of the chance to grow on their own terms. This has been a difficult thing to understand, and even harder to use in my professional practice.

Oftentimes I encourage the parents I work with to experiment with this concept. Holding on with a death grip to your youth’s need to feel control of their life may be a disservice. Practice giving them some room to make tough decisions, and then discuss with them the outcome. Try to suspend your judgment, helping your youth “connect the dots” between their choices and the consequences, good or bad. You will likely be pleasantly surprised at how competent your child has become at making responsible choices when they know the control ” and the outcome ” is in their hands.

For more information on how to help your youth regain some of the control amidst the chaos, visit YouthZone online at, or call us for a 50-minute parent consult ” a quick and easy way to get tough parenting questions resolved for good.

Evan Zislis is UpValley Division Manager at YouthZone

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