The need for control

All of us grew up with parents (or guardians in some cases) around us to take care of our basic needs, and disciplining us when we do something wrong. As babies they feed us, and hold us to allow us to feel loved. Honestly, babies are so cute, who in their right mind could do anything else but love, cuddle, and take care of them. Come to think of it, that is a baby’s most powerful, and only weapon of defense. As a baby we can do no wrong, that is as long as the parental units still think that you cannot understand their language properly yet. Little or no attempt will be made at disciplining.

Things get a little bit different as the baby grows up, starts to walk, and talk. When the baby can start answering simple questions in somewhat coherent sentences, that’s when things start to change. Parents begin their disciplinary phase. They try to teach the still maturing baby what is right, and what is wrong, the best way they know how. Unfortunately for some, the baby grew up and learns our way of life and what is morality; but the parents remain stuck in that disciplinarian mind set.

We grow up with this need to control ingrained into all of us. We are taught as babies to behave in a certain way by the adults who take care of us. As such, when it is our turn to take care of other babies we impart that same set of skills to them (this is the same reason research has shown that children who were abused tend to abuse their own children later). Social learning theory tells us that babies learn through observation. They learn how to interact with us through the way we interact with him/her, as well as with the way we interact with others around him/her (ie. Interaction with other family members or friends). Through the babies’ observation, they learn about our need to control.

We discipline the baby in order to try and control his/her behavior. When he behaves counter to our expectations, he either gets a lecture, or is disciplined. When he behaves in an expected manner he gets lavished with praises, and sometimes rewards. Even though, we do not explicitly teach the baby how to control, he/she is smart enough to learn that we are trying to control their behavior, and that in order for him/her to be able to control other’s behavior that is the same thing they should do. Have you ever noticed that if a baby likes you he often shares his toys with you, and when he doesn’t like you he snatches his toy away from you when you try to touch it. That is his/her meager attempt at trying to communicate, as well as controlling his/her immediate environment.

We grow up learning the need to control. As parents/guardians, we need to control the behavioral output of our babies, whether if it was to toilet train them, or to have them behave according to our expectations so that it would be easier to care for them. As working adults, we have an incessant need to control our environment, so that they can function according to our demands, and produce the expected output. Is there any wonder why so many of us are depressed, or suffer a myriad of other psychological disorders resulting from the inability to control some outcomes? Can we all not see that this is not something we have any control over? Furthermore, sadly for some of us, we simply refuse to grow out of the disciplinary phase and still insist on disciplining, or “mothering”, our children who is already a young adult or beyond; again our need to control our offspring so that they become what we think they should be. Again, can we all not understand that trying to exert control over our offspring’s destinies is an exercise in futility?

It is very unfortunate that we have to inculcate into our infants the need for control. This little piece of information was brought to light by Reverend Jing Kung as he was expounding on the Lotus Sutra. I was very much surprised when I heard about it. But what he said does have a ring of truth to what is happening in our society. We teach our children the need to control. Our children then grow up with the need to control their environment. In school, there is the need to control what grades they get. At work, there is the need to obtain the desired outcome by trying to control the input variables. Some examples of this include but are not limited to the marketing strategies to increase sales, the clever wording of unfavorable information to make it palatable to everyone, or limiting the release of information (whether through omission or other means) to make it sound more convincing to its audience. What all this is saying is that our society today is based very much on the need to control. This need to control is borne out of the craving for personal gains (ie. Greed and selfishness).

What if, we can bring up our kids and teach them how to treat everyone around them with respect, and teach them that what we want is not that important if it is done so at the expense of another’s suffering; and to do so without ever having to resort to disciplining them (remember kids learn through observation, and interaction). Can you imagine what the society would be like if it were all made up of these people, when the kids have all grown up? Well, I can’t but one thing is for sure though; if such a society does exist, then it will definitely experience a lot less problems than what our society is experiencing currently.

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