You may not be able to give me a definition of a power struggle… you may not have even known that it is an official “thing” … but something tells me that any parent reading this could attest to entering into many power struggles with their children! Annnnnnnnnnd probably having lost some as well.
A power struggle is a situation where you and your child are locked in an argument and neither of you is relenting. You are at a complete stalemate and there does not seem to be a solution where you as a parent are going to be able to truly “win” this debate. Sometimes the child is making good, pertinent points that you simply don’t have an answer to… and other times they are making NO sense whatsoever, but to them they are justified. There is a fear that they are going to win and you are going to lose… so you KEEP. ON. GOING.
These happen daily for sure… most likely multiple times a day! And as a parent, you are most likely thinking that you obviously know what is best, you are the one in charge, and that you are going to make sure that your way is THE way. And while you are 100% right in thinking this, these thoughts will be your downfall when it comes to these power struggles. Children don’t particularly care who is in charge when they are advocating for their needs and desires being met. Children (including adolescents) fall prey to a dire sense of urgency. They are developmentally unable to have the ability to reason that mom and/or dad know what is truly best for me and that their current desires or beliefs are not valid. Children know adults are in charge and feel largely misunderstood, so they will assert their position until they are YOU are blue in the face!
Let’s cover 3 ways that you can help to diffuse power struggles, have a parent victory, and still allow your children to feel validated!
#1 Stop believing in your “I’m the parent” trump card.
To be honest, when it comes to something worth fighting for, your child doesn’t care that you are the parent. If they did, this power struggle would never have started in the first place! Asserting that you are the one in charge only makes them push harder to get what they want because they feel as though they have absolutely no control. Stop highlighting the fact that you get the final say and you are in charge. BUT, don’t forget that you are either!! Know this and be confident of it in your mind, but do not verbalize it to your child. And keep in mind that you may be verbalizing inadvertently. Pay attention to the words you are using.You may be overtly saying that you are in charge or get the final say, but there may be ways you are communicating this very idea with different words.
#2 Take away their ability to say that you are not listening to them.
This is a common complaint from children… especially adolescents! When children say that you are not listening to them, they do not necessarily mean you do not hear the words coming out of their mouth. Simply replying that you heard them does not resolve their woe. They want to know that you have internalized what they are experiencing and validate their feelings. When they know you have seriously considered their experience, point of view, and pain point, they will be able to better accept your decision. Slow down. Ask them to share their perspective. Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t tell them they are wrong for feeling something. It does not matter if you think they are legitimate responses or not. Their feelings and experience are very real to them and shape their overall reality. Let them know you understand where they are coming from and can see how difficult that is. You then have more insight into ways that they are incorrectly perceiving the situation and can come up with a response that addresses their issue, AND you still claim victory. You child needs to know that they can tell you what is on their heart and mind, otherwise you will not be a source of support for them in their times of need.
#3 Give them options.
No one likes to be pigeonholed. When it comes down to what you are saying versus what the child is asserting… the child will go with their assertion every time. They are not in the midst of an emotional argument going to say, “You know what mom/dad, you are right. Why was I thinking my idea was better? I will do what you want me to.” BUT… parents keep arguing as if this is a realistic possibility! Give your child the illusion of power, but still maintain all of it by… giving them options/choices. Coming up with 2 choices is a lot easier than you would think… but if you can come up with 3 or 4 that is even better! The more choices, the more control the child will perceive. And if you truly want your child to be successful in the long term, they need to start realizing there is always more than one choice in any given situation. WIN WIN WIN. Your assertion can be a choice or a compromise with a consequence. You can make the consequence tailored to your child so that they are able to make the better choice… YOURS!
If this all sounds great, but you know in the midst of the battle that you are likely to struggle to follow through, I would love to provide you with some counseling or support in this area of your parenting. Handling power struggles well allows you to earn respect from your children, encourage them to come to you in times of need, and promotes a peaceful home. This is such an important area to gain victory in! Let’ s work together to ensure that you are the one in control of your household and in a way that builds your parent-child relationship, instead of straining it. SIGN UP HERE for a free consultation so we can see if counseling or parent support sessions may be right for you, as well as, addressing your current parenting woes! OR Sign up for my FREE Online Parenting Support Workshop starting September 12th!