Mom, do you find yourself giving scads of “bad news” to your kids all day long?
- No, you can’t jump on the couch.
- We’re not buying that super cool Lego set today.
- Nope. I’m not serving ice cream for lunch.
- You know you can’t hit your brother. You have to share that favorite toy dinosaur.
You get the idea.
And I’m guessing that your kids don’t always take the bad news so well. Perhaps they argue. Or pout.
Maybe they even throw tantrums.
And all of a sudden, you’ve entered the power struggle zone.
When it comes to parenting, doing what’s best for your child often leads to a fight for control between the two of you.
Discover below how to avoid these power struggles with your kids and turn things around.
Understanding the Power Struggle
It helps to understand what’s going on with your child. Having a sense of power and control is a basic human need. Children often act out when they feel overpowered or powerless.
Children also learn (quite early) their actions trigger certain responses from their parents. They learn to “push your buttons.”
Causing these reactions creates a sense of power in your little one. (Okay, at any age, lol. Not just your littles.) So, it’s your own emotional reactions that ultimately cause some of the misbehaviors.
Want to change the dynamic between yourself and your children?
Let’s try a more positive parenting approach.
Instead of having a winner and a loser, try creating a “win-win” situation. Let’s treat each circumstance as an opportunity to grow your little one’s character. To teach him/her life skills such as cooperation and self-control.
Keeping Your Cool
The most important thing to keep in mind when your child misbehaves is to remain calm.
Losing your temper doesn’t set a positive example of how to act in stressful situations. In fact, it models inappropriate behavior.
- Don’t overreact. Remember your child’s desire for power? Overreacting will make your child feel powerless. Which will make matters worse. So stay calm and speak in a firm, but calm manner.
- Instead of shouting, say “Stop it” in a firm, calm voice. Repeat as needed. You may have to gently, but firmly, hold your child still and explain what they’re doing is not okay.
- If you feel yourself losing it, take a few deep breaths. Give yourself a time-out, going to another room if necessary.
Using Fewer Words
Does this sound familiar?
Clean your room, sweetie… Mommy, I don’t want to clean my room… Well, mommy wants you to clean it… No, I don’t want to do it now. Why now?… Because messes drive me crazy and your friends are coming over later and mommy likes the whole house…blah, blah, blah.
The power struggle is in full swing. Your child as managed to get into a lengthy discussion (or argument).
Use as few words as possible to get your message across. Use only one or two words if you can.
Avoid lengthy responses to your child by repeating the word. And you may need to repeat it several times. Don’t give in to arguing.
So to take the above example again:
Clean your room, sweetie… Mommy, I don’t want to clean my room… Clean your room… I don’t want to clean it now. Why now?… Clean your room.
Trust me, she will get tired of the same response and stop trying to start an argument. And with consistency, she’ll soon comply the first time she’s told.
Turning a No into a Yes
Kids get tired of hearing no. (Don’t we all?) So try saying yes more often.
Does that mean that your kids should get everything they want? Definitely not. That’s not good for anyone. But when you can, say yes.
And when you can’t say yes? Rephrase the negative response with one that sounds more positive.
Instead of saying, “No, you can’t go outside until you’ve put on your shoes,” rephrase into a positive. Say, “Yes, you can go outside as soon as you put on your shoes.”
Same difference. But doesn’t it sound much better? (Your kids will think so, too.)
Picking Your Battles
If you try to correct your child every single time they misbehave, you’ll wear yourself out in no time. As they’re learning about the world, toddlers get into everything. It’s exhausting.
Do you want to spend every moment on high alert for misbehavior?
Then it’s important to decide what issues you want to stand your ground on. For most parents, safety and health are the two biggest issues in which they hold firm.
Beyond that, it’s up to you to determine which behaviors pose a problem and which are simply bothersome. Try to imagine your child as an adult. Think about their behavior now. Which issues are not acceptable for adults? You’ll want to steer your child away from those.
Is it that big of a deal that your son wants to wear his superman cape and boots to the grocery store? Or that your daughter wants to wear her princess dress-up costume to daycare?
Giving Kids Choices
Telling your kids to do something they don’t want to do will likely cause resistance. So, give them choices when it comes to getting things done.
Do you clash with your children every time you tell them to do their homework? Is it a specific subject they’re having trouble with? Offer two or three different times to get it done. Their choice.
(If they’re struggling readers, check out these 16 awesome reading sites they’re sure to love.)
Make it clear if they don’t hold up their end of the deal, they won’t be able to make the choice again in the future. Also, make sure they know the possible consequences of certain choices as well. (Going without a coat when it’s raining, for example.)
Is it a battle to get your child dressed every morning? Give him a choice between two outfits. He’ll feel satisfied, and you’ll have a more peaceful morning.
Repeating Offenses? Compromise
Are you constantly engaging in power struggles over the same situations? Consider meeting together as a family to discuss the issue. Brainstorm together how to avoid the struggles and come to a compromise. Your children will feel valued. And that’s always good.
Remember the scenario above where the parent wanted the room cleaned? Perhaps this standoff happens on a regular basis.
So, a family meeting gets scheduled. After brainstorming, mom and child work out a compromise. They decide the door to the room will stay shut during the week. The room must get cleaned on Friday night so it’s presentable for the weekend company.
Your child wants to wear his cowboy boots everywhere, every day. The power struggle ensues every morning. Compromise? Wear boots to daycare but not to church.
Many times when a parent clearly and firmly tells their child to do something, that child knows there aren’t any other options. And they just do it. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes they argue and try to change their parent’s mind.
- Use a calm tone of voice when speaking with your child. Let her know you mean what you say. Remember, kind and firm.
- Keep in mind that your children hear and see everything you’re saying and doing. They’re going to model their behavior after yours.
- If your child tries to talk you into changing your mind, calmly tell him that it’s not happening and he needs to do as told. Don’t give in to your children. Eventually, they won’t try to sway you at every opportunity.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Give a warning and provide a consequence for not cooperating. Then follow through.
Keeping Things Consistent
The best way to make sure your children follow the rules and routines? Consistently enforce them.
If your kids aren’t allowed up past 9 p.m. on a school night, make sure to stick with it. Even one night of bending the rules lets your child know that your rules are “bendable.” No matter how small the issue, make sure that the rules of the house are always the rules.
The good news? If you’ve been inconsistent dealing with an issue in the past, it’s not too late to improve the situation. Come up with a set of rules, go over them with your child, and then stick with them.
Taking Notice of the Good
Children react positively to encouragement and approval. Make sure that you praise your children for good habits and behavior, so they feel like they’ve done a good job.
Praise also makes your children feel more capable, which is good for self-esteem.
If your child gets little to no encouragement or attention from positive actions, she may turn to misbehavior to feel noticed.
A rule of thumb: for every negative thing you have to say to your child, be sure to find five positive things to say. Keep their “emotional banks” full. Negatives are withdrawals. Positives are deposits.
Are you concerned at this point that you’ve created a little monster and it’s too late to fix it?
Relax. The good news is it’s never too late. Start right this minute to teach your child appropriate behavior.
Every time your child misbehaves in a certain way, decide exactly how you’re going to handle it. How you’re going to respond. And then use that response every time.
Every. Single. Time.
Think about the best response according to your child’s age, their stage of development, and the specific misbehavior.
As an example, let’s use my 16-month-old grandson.
Eli constantly gets into everything, especially the glass door to our TV stand. I know a lecture isn’t appropriate at this age. And getting angry makes the behavior worse. So consistent distraction and repetition are probably best.
I pick him up, tell him that playing with the glass door is a no-no, and then take him to his room to find a toy to play with.
And I must use this same response consistently. Repeatedly. For as many times as it takes for him to finally comply. Maybe even 30 or 40+ times. But he will eventually understand and learn.
Try mapping out appropriate responses for your child, at any age or stage. You can get your power (and sanity, lol) back with a more positive parenting approach. No power struggles required.
Remembering the Bottom Line
Firm and consistent. Calm and intentional. Every time.
That’s the secret to overcoming power struggles with your child.
Now that you know the secret, will you commit to using a more positive, in control style of parenting? You can do it.
Let us know in the comments how you handle power struggles.