Power struggles between parents and children happen most often when the parents’ expectations and abilities of the child in that moment are out of sync.
So often, your job as a parent is to keep a certain amount of order in your home. This helps the whole family feel safe and well. That also means that sometimes your child will dislike or challenge your decisions.
The problem with power struggles is not the fact that children challenge parental decisions, in fact, that is a sign that your child is thinking, growing and developing well. The problem is when as parents, we engage with the refusals in a negative manner and allow a power struggle to unravel.
Raising Respectful Kids With Positive Parenting
Children can learn to be respectful, mindful, helpful and kind. Especially when you are committed to taking a positive approach to discipline.
Encouraging respect and having influence with children is more likely to happen when you focus on building trust and positive relationships with your child. In fact, engaging in nagging, criticizing, and punishing rude remarks are actually power struggle inducing behaviors.
Strategies for Avoiding the Power Struggle
Parents need to remove themselves from the power struggle without winning or giving in. Create a win/win environment. HOW? The following suggestions teach children important life skills including self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills—instead of “approval junkie” compliance or rebellion.
- Follow Through The key to this one and all of the following is kindness and firmness at the same time. (Pull over to the side of the road without saying a word. Children learn more from kind and firm actions than from words.)
- Time in gives children important emotional contact. It’s a way of meeting your child’s needs so he doesn’t have to act out. During the time-in, parents are encouraged to empathize with the child’s feelings and often just quiet connection is all that is needed until the storm has passed.
- Get children involved in the creation of routines (morning, chores, bedtime). Then the routine chart becomes the boss.
- Ask what and how questions: How will we eat if you don’t set the table? What is next on our routine chart? What was our agreement about what happens to toys that aren’t picked up? What happened? How do you feel about what happened? What ideas do you have to solve the problem? (This does not work at the time of conflict, nor does it work unless you are truly curious about what you child has to say.)
- Put the problem on the family meeting agenda and let the kids brainstorm for a solution. (Chore story, safe deposit box.)
- Use ten words or less. One is best: Toys. Towels (that may have been left on the bathroom floor). Homework. (Sometimes these words need to be repeated several times.)
- Get children involved in cooperation. Say, “I can’t make you, but I really need your help.”
- No words: Use pantomime, charades, or notes. Try a hug to create closeness and trust—then do something else.
- Use reflective listening. Stop talking and listen. Try to understand not only what your child is saying, but what she means.
- Limited choices: Do you want to do your homework before dinner or after dinner. Do you want to set the table or clean up after dinner?
Everyone wants to feel powerful. Our children are not exempt from these feelings so the more we can do to give them appropriate ways to feel powerful, the less power struggles we will have with them. If a child feels valued, loved and respected, he will still create power struggles because he is human. But if parents consistently keep in mind why their child does this, the struggles can be effectively handled and many times avoided altogether.