What We Can And Cannot Control

I know the majority of people are familiar with the graphics or the exercises where you write down two different categories. 

Things I can control. 

Things I cannot control. 

You then list out everything on one side of the things that are in your control. Your thoughts, your attitude, your opinions, your actions. 

On the other side, you write down the things you cannot control. Others opinions, thoughts, comments. The traffic, the weather, politics, etc. 

It can be very therapeutic to take some time writing these down so that we can realize what is in our control and what is out of our control. 

However, I think we oftentimes only associate these things with other adults in our lives. We are thinking about our colleagues and neighbors. However, as teachers and parents, we often do not apply this principle to our students and kids. And I know that it’s true because I also felt like I was above it all and could control my children. In fact, I felt like I had control of my children. But do I really have control over their thoughts and actions? Absolutely not. 

So what do I have then? Boundaries. Influence.

Because I cannot control my children’s actions and thoughts, I have to set clear, firm boundaries for them to act within. I have the responsibility to teach and influence them.

For example. My daughter and I often play in the front yard, but we live on a road just busy enough that she cannot ride her bike or play in the street because there are too many cars. I cannot control how my daughter moves her body, what thoughts she has on the road, or her desire to see what it’s like out there. These are all completely up to her. 

However, I can have a good influence on her by teaching her the safety of the road, letting her know what the dangers are, and setting a physical boundary for her so that she cannot cross into the road. 

I still have no control over her thoughts or actions, but I’ve taken the proper precautionary steps to keep her safe! 

The same goes for when you’re teaching in a kindergarten classroom. If a child throws a huge tantrum and starts throwing objects across the room, can you control her emotions, actions, or decisions? No. You really do not have control over those. 

Can you influence her, show support, set boundaries, and control your own actions and emotions? YES! 

I’ve been using this strategy with friends and family when unwanted and unsolicited comments arise, by reminding myself that these individuals have the right to act, think, and say what they want, but it’s my responsibility to control my own thoughts and actions in response. It was a mind-blowing revelation that it can also be applied to younger children as well! 

Yes, we do need to set boundaries and stay a good influence because that’s what a good teacher, parent, or role model does. However, it’s relieving to know that these children’s actions and thoughts are not a reflection of you. They are not your responsibility to control, they are just your responsibility to react in a professional way to guide them to safety. 

Have you had this revelation of control with your class and kids? Did it help you while teaching to have a sense of self-awareness when it comes to control? 

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