An Open Letter to Parents: How micromanaging is making your child sick

Updated: Jul 22

Dear Parents,

Your subconscious mind is programmed to control 95% of all your thoughts, emotions, and actions. This "autopilot" mode explains why you have a certain way you do things - the way you gesture with your hands, the way you laugh, chew your food, and the way you parent. While there's nothing inherently wrong with that, if you are not mindful of your patterns and how they affect your child's development, then you may be repeating some painful habits that are keeping both of you stuck in a seriously dysfunctional routine.

Five Signs you're a Micromanager

Micromanagement is a habit rooted in fear, distrust, and doomed to stunt your child's executive functioning. Here are five clear signs that you are a micromanager, and what to do instead so that you can help your child practice the skills they need for independence.

1. You're a martyr: you complain of having to do everything yourself, but that also includes stuff your child can do for themselves. You don't step back and give your child a chance to succeed (or fail) on their own.

Here are some excuses Martyrs use to stay stuck in their habits:

  • It'll save me time if I do it myself.

  • There's too much at stake to allow this to go wrong.

  • When I'm not involved, they'll mess up.

  • It's my job to make sure it goes right.

In the rare event that you do ask for something to be done, you plan on "fixing it" afterward, or "finishing it" so that it lives up to your standards. Either way, your child consistently feels like they've let you down.

The message you're sending them is: "I don't trust you."

2. You nag: your child is lazy and disrespectful, and you have to stay on top of them constantly just so they get stuff done.

You don't trust your child to do what they say they will because last time they said they would, they half-assed it or skipped it altogether. So this time, you're prepared. You check in every five minutes, you stand over them to give direction and feedback at every step.

The message you're sending them is: "You're not doing enough."

3. You lecture: you need to teach your child a lesson or they will never learn.

You're not a perfectionist. You just want to help your child do it the right way (aka the way you do it). So you offer lots of constructive criticism and lecture them about something that "should be easy" or they should "know how to do by now."

The message you're sending them is: "You're not good enough."

4. You use coercion: the art of persuasion through threat or force.

Instead of focusing on your child, you focus on the task that you need them to complete. Rather than inspiring them and building mutual trust, you threaten to take away their favorite things, or arbitrarily enforce consequences to get them to comply.

The message you're sending them is: "You can't trust me."

5. You can't let it go: you work hard to convince your child that your way is the right way.

You've been there, done that and you've got decades of experience on your child. Why won't they just listen to you and do it exactly like you told them to do it? If only you can prove that your way is the best way; if only they just tried it once, they'd totally understand that you know best and they should have listened to you all along.

The message you're sending them is: "You can't think for yourself."

The Short Term Gains aren't Worth It

In the short run, micromanaging may feel productive and get you the immediate outcome that you're looking for. But let's look at the long-term, corrosive effects of micromanagement on your relationship and your child's ability to function independently.

  • Helplessness: your child doesn't believe they can function without you/someone even for the simplest of tasks.

  • Lack of confidence and low self esteem.

  • Lack of growth: your child is stuck in their comfort zone and rarely challenged to try new things and learn from their mistakes.

  • Chronic Stress: your constant oversight and negative messages are a huge stressor for your child. Kids internalize the messages they receive and start believing there is something wrong with them.

  • Lack of trust in you/your intentions. Inability to ask for help.

  • Arguing, tantrums, power struggles, and lack of respect.

  • Fear of failure, and fear of making you angry, hostile, or disappointed.