Driver’s Seat

Are you ready to get out of the driver’s seat? Giving up control and becoming instead just a passenger can be difficult, but sometimes we must do so for our own serenity. Not everything requires us to be in the driver’s seat!

I Struggle with Not Being in the Driver’s Seat!

I have the hardest time being the passenger: I will point out everything that is wrong with the other person’s driving. It sounds funny, but how many times have you pointed out what the driver is doing wrong?

I definitely slip into this habit when my kids are driving. I will say something like, “That was not a full stop.” But I know I shouldn’t do this! Instead I could say, “Do you think you should have made a complete stop back there?” Same idea but different tactic. One is based on my opinion and puts me in charge, while the other asks a question and lets the driver decide.

I have preferred to be in the driver’s seat with total control. I want everything done my way. I’m definitely a fixer with control issues! While this trait has served me well in my business life, that’s not the case in my personal life. I still slip every now and then and want to take back the reins and do it my way. The trick is to be aware of your bad habits.

Driver’s Seat Can Zap the Fun Out of Things

Here is an example of being a poor passenger for all you parents out there because I know I am not the only parent who makes this mistake. One of my kids moved out of state and purchased her first car on her own. When I found out about the details of her purchase, I explained why she hadn’t gotten such a good deal and wanted to fix it. But this just took away from her excitement of buying her first car. I was wrong, and I don’t need to micromanage my kids. They are adults, and how they spend their money is none of my business. It is also not my place to fix their mistakes or throw anything in their faces when it doesn’t work out. My goal now is to set them free and let them learn adult lessons. I am still learning at my age.

Who am I to judge? I have made plenty of mistakes with money. That is probably why I want to share my opinions, so maybe they don’t have to go through all my mistakes. But that would be robbing them of their own experiences! Parents, get out of the driver’s seat. The truth is, we do not have all the answers. Being in control all the time is too draining anyway.

Parents in the Driver’s Seat

When my kids were younger, I was much better at this, or at least I thought I was. When they would ask me questions, I would say, “What would you do?” or “If you knew the answer, what would it be?” If they said, “I don’t know,” I would tell them, “If you did know, what would you do?” As parents, we want to constantly figure stuff out for our kids, but doing so is a disservice.

Wayne Dyer’s book What Do You Really Want for Your Children? was my bible when my kids were toddlers. I would read it a lot and use his examples in the book. We all know the saying “Parenting is the hardest job in the world!” It is true. You are a parent your whole life, and mistakes will happen. I know a lot of parents, and I have never met one who has not had their share of difficulties. Being a parent involves so many dimensions and stages that no two parenting styles are alike.

Have you ever thought of all the things that can go wrong as a parent? You can go through so many life events with your kids: divorce, death of a loved one, death of an animal, injuries, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, bad grades, drugs, sex, abuse, trauma, accidents, bullying, allergies, health conditions—not to mention all the emotional issues, such as jealousy, best friend problems, gossip, and the list goes on. How on earth can parents keep up with all the different things that can go wrong? It is not an easy job.

Having our emotional home in order helps with parenting. If you have been reading my blog and getting my weekly newsletter, you know I speak a lot about my emotional home and how I quietly suffered. I was white-knuckling it a lot as a parent, holding on for dear life and hoping I could get through the day without any new problems cropping up or getting a call from school.

In the movie Terms of Endearment, Debra Winger’s character is dying and has to decide what to do with her three kids. Jeff Daniels, who plays her husband, says, “I never thought I would be the type of man to give up his kids.” Debra’s character says, “It’s a lot of work. As hard as you think it is, you end up wishing it were that easy.” In defeat, Jeff’s character says, “I’d probably screw it up.”

What does this have to do with being in the driver’s seat? As parents, we can be too controlling and micromanage our kids. I am guilty of this. If you are frustrated and feel like you are always in the driver’s seat and your kids or the people around you resent this, then take a look at your part in this mess. We parents struggle to admit we are wrong, but nothing makes kids feel more seen than validating their feelings.

Practice Getting Out of the Driver’s Seat

No one likes to be controlled. It impedes our freedom, and we all have the right to make our own choices. We do not have to have everything figured out. The whole goal in life is to be happy! Being in the driver’s seat all the time can add too much pressure, so enjoy being a passenger on this glorious ride. Here is the good news: it is okay to break the generational cycles of bad parenting. Change has to start somewhere—wouldn’t it be great if it started with you?

Try this exercise: Usually people who tend to be in control of everything have a lot of resentments. Write down any resentments you have right now. Look at your part in this cycle. Are you in control? Are you in the driver’s seat? Are you running the show? Get this all down on paper. Look at where you are controlling the situation. What would you like to get rid of? What would you like to give up?

This exercise may seem trivial, but writing all these thoughts down helps you to look at your part in the situation. You might be surprised by what you need to give up. Take the pressure off yourself, and find your peace and serenity. Remember, there is no situation where you should lose your peace. It might be time to hire a driver!

Deborah Driggs

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