Avoiding Power Struggles

Key principles:

  • Remember that in power struggles, no one wins.
  • Don’t force children. Hearts are not won through coercion.
  • The goal is love-driven obedience. External conformity is superficial.
  • Training a child to choose well takes time and patience. When a child owns the choice, they will choose it again later.

Key methods

  • Once you notice you have gotten into a tug-of-war with your child, drop it. There is great power in backing off a subject until everyone is calm.
  • Ignore the struggle, not the child.
    • Toddlers and Preschoolers: Use distraction or postponement. Distract from the struggle by drawing their attention elsewhere or ask them, “Let’s do this (something else) first and then we can go back to this (the source of struggle). “
    • Older children: calmly say something like, “I’m not going to fight with you. I love you.  Tell me when you are calm so we can work through this together.”
    • There is great power in a hug. When it feels like you are not connecting, reconnection is most important.  It’s amazing what shifts when a child feels your sincere love.
  • Don’t make mountains out of molehills. Most issues are not as life threatening as they may seem in the heat of the moment.  Choose your battles.
  • When possible, give your child choices. Shared power diffuses the need to struggle for control.  You can maintain your authority while empowering your child to choose well.
  • Keep it Win-Win. What solution will allow your child and you both to get some of what you want?  Teach compromise and model win-win early in life.    
  • Decide What You Will Do. We can’t change our child, but we can determine our reaction –taking space, acting the way we will not regret later, giving fair consequences.
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