They might seem like they’re a normal part of raising children, but once you learn how to stop power struggles, you’ll wish you learned how to sooner.
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The fact of the matter is that when you engage in a power struggle with your child, no one wins.
You’ll both keep escalating until utter pandemonium.
Someone will undoubtedly start crying for some reason or other. And even if that’s your child, that’s just not the way either of you want things to go down.
Why Do Power Struggles Happen?
Power struggles happen because neither party wants to let go. Neither party wants to give up and feel like a loser. No one wants to take the time to stop and think clearly for a few minutes about how to fix the problem more productively.
Each person is trying to have their will be done, the other person be damned.
Your child wants independence and autonomy. You want control.
Can You Avoid Power Struggles With Children?
Yes, you can avoid power struggles with children. Just as you can avoid power struggles with anyone.
How? Don’t engage. It takes TWO to tango. And you’re the bigger of the two. You’ve also got to be the better of the two.
How To Stop Power Struggles
Here are some practical tips for stopping power struggles right from the start. It’s mostly about choosing not to engage. You are the adult. You are the best model for how to exit an unproductive conversation.
1. Don’t Engage
When you participate in a power struggle, it is because you CHOOSE to engage.
You might feel like that’s unfair to say, because you feel like it is your child making or causing you to engage.
But, we are all in control of ourselves. You’ve got to be in control of you. You’ve got to be the example for your child and show what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable. And also to show how you will and will not allow others to treat you. Including your own child.
If you’re finding it extra difficult to keep your cool, you might have mom burnout. Check out these links to find out what that is and how to recover from it:
2. Give Choices
Allow your child to have some autonomy and independence by giving a couple choices. Don’t give too many, or you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot.
For example, if you want your child to clean up their room, you might ask if they would like to clean it up right now or before dessert.
Another example would be asking your child if they’d like to eat the dinner they are complaining about or only have an apple before bed.
The choices don’t have to be 100% in your child’s favor. Or different sides of the same coin. They only have to make sense.
If you have a young child, then you probably just need to pick him or her up and move them to a more acceptable activity. If they are playing with something they shouldn’t be playing with, let them know that’s not safe and quickly re-route them to an appropriate toy.
You definitely shouldn’t be getting into power struggles with the 3 and under crowd. Just redirect them and save yourself from the drama. They can be extra persistent!
But you can be wiser. You have a secret power called maturity, and you can just be more hands-on until they are mature enough to require less focused guidance.
4. Speak Less
Let your child know the expectation and move on. Don’t allow them to whine incessantly, or that will become your reality. Ask me how I know.
Now at the first whine I let him know that my decision is final, and ignore any further whining. If he’s being particularly persistent, I’ll let him know that the more he whines the less likely he is to get whatever it is he wants.
I also let him know that I can listen better when he is speaking in a normal voice that doesn’t hurt my ears.
If you speak too much, and engage in the back and forth, it invites that to happen every. single. time.
You don’t want that. Trust me.
Raising children isn’t always easy. They test the best parts of us, and they also test the worst.
They don’t come with manuals, but we do come with experience. And age. We’ve got to use that against them.
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We’ve got to show that we can be cool, calm, and collected. Most of the times, anyway. We can’t let them think that whining and tantrumming will get them their way.
We have to show that we listen better when they are being respectful, and that we won’t engage in power struggles. They aren’t fun for anyone, and they deteriorate relationships.
I hope these tips helped you, and would love to hear if any of these worked with your little one to finally stop power struggles.