It’s late. You’re tired.
All you want to do is get your kids to bed so you can finally relax.
Instead, you and your child are battling it out in a Power Struggle.
There’s yelling. Screaming. Crying. Demanding. Bribing. Threatening.
From both of you.
The longer it lasts, the more heated the struggle.
When will it end?
Why you’re still having power struggles.
I know you’re tired of the battles. I know you hate fighting with your kids. I know you want to make a change, but nothing seems to work.
Maybe it’s because you’re focused on winning.
You want your kids to do things your way, to do what you say, when you say it, because…well, you’re the parent.
Unfortunately, forcing our kids to do what we want rarely works. Instead, it creates a hostile situation that usually leads to less cooperation – the opposite of what you were trying to achieve!
Stop trying to win.
What?! Give in? Give them what they want? Let them do whatever they please?
No. Not exactly.
Power struggles are only struggles because two people engage in a fight. If one person steps out of the ring, the struggle is over.
You want your son to eat all of his peas. He doesn’t want to. You try to force it. He pushes them away. You try again. He refuses even more.
Stop trying to win.
It’s a mindset change.
When we are engaged in a power struggle, our brains are in fight or flight mode. Our body is ready for attack.
We’re not thinking clearly and rationally. We’re not calmly exploring our options or working to find a compromise.
And, we’re definitely not focused on maintaining a strong relationship with our kids.
Nope. We’re trying to win!
So, instead of focusing on “winning” the battle of the peas. Let’s focus on getting our brains back to calm so we can handle the situation differently.
What to do next.
- Calm Yourself: Before you can do anything else, you need to get your brain out of attack mode. Take a few deep breaths. Roll your shoulders. Stretch. Sit down. Do a yoga pose. Close your eyes. Find simple things to help you calm and focus.
- Connect: A misbehaving child is often feeling disconnected from you. Focusing on repairing connection or building connection in these moments can help your child’s brain move from attack-mode, to calm. Offer hugs, empathy, or get down to their level.
- Work together: Once you’re calm and you’ve connected, you can start to focus on creating other solutions to the problem. Again, it’s not about “winning,” it’s about solving a problem in a way that works for both you and your child.
When you decide that you don’t have to win the power struggle, you have a lot more options:
- Talk it through
- Brainstorm solutions
- Offer choices
- Set limits with empathy
- Explore other options
- Make a plan
- Use a timer
- Create a schedule
- Have a snack
- Get a drink of water
- Move to a quiet spot
- Take a break
- Start over
- Be silly
- Explore your triggers
- Listen to your child’s perspective
Not quite sure?
I realize that this perspective may seem radically different to you. And that’s ok. Some of you may think this seems too “soft” or too passive. Some of you may feel that this doesn’t give kids enough accountability or doesn’t “teach them a lesson.”
Stepping out of a power struggle doesn’t make us less of a parent. It doesn’t mean we are giving in. (In fact, sometimes, your child will still have to do the things you ask, such as buckling into their car seat or wearing a bike helmet.) And, it doesn’t mean our kids don’t learn (the teaching comes later, not in the moment).
Instead, it provides a good role model for our kids. It shows them that taking time to calm our brain helps us make better decisions. It focuses on problem-solving and working together.
And, it demonstrates that we can disagree on a topic and still love each other.