If you have a child that is getting into power struggles with you, you also have a child that is ready and able to stand up for themselves.
This is a good thing. A really good thing.
Children that are assertive, critical thinkers are more successful in life.
While it might be great down the line, in these early years, power struggles are usually no fun at all. So here is the good news:
There is a way to support your child’s assertiveness without getting into power struggles.
Children can learn to be respectful, mindful, helpful and kind while still being assertive.
They can also learn to respect limits and boundaries without feeling powerless.
You don’t have to be permissive with your expectations either.
It’s all about balancing the power in your home.
A tricky balance made possible by focusing on having influence with your child, instead of using power over them.
Reducing power struggles and encouraging mutual respect can happen when you focus on building trust and a positive relationship with your child.
According to Jane Nelsen of the Positive Discipline series, placing more value on problem solving, engaging children in making agreements and truly listening to your child can end power struggles. This has been my experience as well.
Stopping Power Struggles With Problem Solving
Do you have repetitive power struggles over the same issues? Have you tried many ways to motivate or engage cooperation like offering rewards, bribes or resorted to making threats?
Feeling hopeless that not matter what your child argues about the same things again and again?
If this is the case for you, it sounds like it’s time to put the brakes on power struggles and start solving problems.
Bribes, rewards and threats don’t build any kind of internal motivation in your child.
Threats and bribes also doesn’t build a sense of trust, belonging or capability.
Positive discipline is based on the notion that rewards and punishments are not helpful because they don’t promote self-discipline or cooperation.
You may have noticed that any power struggle relief from rewards and threats are usually short lived as well.
Here are some problem solving questions for ending continuous power struggles:
- Does my child know what is expected?
- Does my child have a potential solution to our problem?
- Have my child and I discussed the ongoing problem and brainstormed solutions?
In my family, we ended meal time clean up struggles by asking the kids to come up with solutions and make a plan.
Together the three kids came up with a turn taking schedule for setting the table, being a kitchen helper and cleaning up.
Because they took ownership of the problem, and we expressed what we expected our power struggles came to an end.
Stop Power Struggles With Connection & Agreements
Children don’t always find the right words to explain how lost and totally engaged they are in what they are doing. A simple request from you may feel like an untimely demand. The end of something great.
What happens next…. your child just refuses to do something. Then you insist and a power struggle begins.
Connecting and then making agreements with your child can open the door to meeting both of your needs and finding a win, win solution.
Before making a request, slow down a bit. Connect with your child, even if for just two minutes. Try to understand what your child is engaging in. What will motivate them to say yes to your request?
It’s much easier to create an agreement with your child when you are both on the same page.
A connected request might sound like:
“I see you are getting close to a mission checkpoint, are you having fun playing? So, I am looking for you to get the recycling taken out. Can we agree on a stopping place, say 10 minutes from now or at the next checkpoint for your to take a break and can get your job done?”
If your child is still refusing to help at all – ask yourself if this is a problem that keeps happening (see above) or if you need to set some time aside to listen to your child.
Stop Power Struggles With Listening
No matter how much effort you put into ending power struggles with using problem solving, agreements and other solutions, it’s possible that some days your child will just be struggling to do their very best.
So often, children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes, yet we adults have them all the time! We think if we don’t nip it in the bud, it will escalate and we will lose control. Let go of that unfounded fear and give your child permission to be human. We all have days like that. None of us are perfect, and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves. — Rebecca Eanes
End Power Struggles Before They Escalate By Being The Grown-Up in The Room
End power struggles before they escalate. End them by listening, by extending your child some empathy and kindness.
Allow your child time to calm down and start over. Don’t look for a bad, sassy child. See a child that needs your help and love. See a child that can learn how to communicate with respect.
Appreciate your child’s determination and meet it with guidance.
When children are reaching for power and control, connection is the path towards cooperation.
Next time you are headed towards a power struggle, pause. Then strive to listen to your child’s struggle and offer some calm, connected guidance.
Peace & Be Well,