Thursday, July 29, 2010

Power Struggles and Choices

Times have changed since the “Children should be seen and not heard” days. Now, parents must find ways to empower their children without sacrificing their own authority. Any parent knows that this is not an easy thing to do. Power struggles happen when the parent wants to be in total control and the child wants to be in control, too. Unfortunately, this can start around the age of 18 months and doesn’t end until, well . . . the child leaves the nest!

The most common issues that result in power struggles with young children include, taking baths and going to bed. For older children we can add doing homework and chores. For teens and adolescents, curfew is a big issue. However, if this is your only issue with a teen, consider yourself lucky.

Having raised three children, I remember bedtime struggles when they were toddlers. Little did I know they were just warming up for that adorable adolescent stage when not only did they resist going to bed at a decent time, but they insisted on staying up until two in the morning on the cell phone or texting friends.

One way to avoid power struggles is to give your child positive choices. Offering choices can give your child a little power or control over a few things in his or her life. This doesn’t mean you let your child “run the show” or make all the decisions. It means you allow your child to make a choice between two behaviors and then follow through with that choice. It can sound like this, “You can either turn the cell phone off right now, or lose it for a week. Your choice.”

The choice for a young child could be, “You can pick up your books or your trucks first, which one can you do faster?” A choice for a school-age child sounds like this, “You can either wash the dishes or dry them. Which one do you want to do?”

Be sure to adjust the number and types of choices to fit the age of your child. Choices allow children to feel more in control or his or her world and can help eliminate many (but not all) negative power struggles.