Trans4mind Home Page
Home Article Library Child Development & Parenting

A Simple Key to Dissolving
Parent-Child Power Struggles

By Nicole MacKenzie

Who is really "in-charge" in today's family? Do kids have too much power? Many parents today are overwhelmed when it comes to parenting. They find themselves constantly explaining, arguing and negotiating with their children. Parenting becomes frustrating and not much fun. The "quality time" is often spent in a power-struggle.

Parents know they don't want to raise their children in an authoritarian, diminishing, character-crushing style. Yet, the "laissez faire" approach doesn't work either – it results in spoiled self-centered kids. The more kids get to "run the show", the harder it actually is for them to be happy and satisfied. The harder it is for them to grow up to be productive responsible adults.

Is there a middle ground? A way that works for both the parent and child? Yes, happily there is. But to understand how to effectively balance freedom and discipline requires a look at the roots of kids' power struggles.

Children learn how to engage you into a power struggle by manipulating you with emotions (whining, pouting, tantrums, etc.). They push your "hot buttons". The goal of the manipulation game on the child's part is to see if you will engage emotionally with him – it is a measuring device of power.

Children usually start to test their power between 1-2 years of age. This is the same time they start to develop a sense of self. It is the time when they no longer look at the reflection in the mirror and see another baby -they now recognize the reflection as their own self.

At this point they will object to what you say, not because of reasoning, but just because they can. They quickly find out what works and will continuously push for more and more. For example, if whining will eventually get them what they think they want they will increase the whining.

If, over time, the whining keeps "working", this behavior develops into a habit and the child will start doing it unconsciously. The irony is that although the child is on the surface getting what they want, they become more and more demanding and eventually develop an ingrained attitude of unhappy dissatisfaction that is hard to break.

Punishment is not the answer. Children are not bad or wrong for pushing and testing to see what they can get with their emotional manipulation games. They are just exploring, experimenting and learning about the world and their place in it.

Children often are not even aware of the emotional games they are playing. They are simply modeling what they have seen on TV or what they've seen other kids do. The first step is to point it out to them and bring their awareness to it. Then you can explain that what they are doing "doesn't work" and explain the behavior you want instead.

You must be gently firm but unwavering in your commitment. If you "give in", your child will simply learn that their game really does work after all – they just need to whine louder (or cry harder, etc.) and keep at it longer.

The real key is for you, the parent, to avoid getting emotionally hooked into the game - to observe the child's behavior in a non-judgmental way, and then respond appropriately instead of emotionally reacting. Once you "take it personally", your objectivity evaporates and everybody loses. The easiest way to stay out of this emotional quicksand is to shift into a mental attitude of curiosity.

One of the biggest gifts you can give your child is to hold them accountable to their emotional impact on others. If done with curiosity and non-judgment – IT WILL WORK. It takes the fight out of potential power-struggles and strengthens the child's emotional intelligence. Children learn how to control their emotions instead of having their emotions control them.

Certainly the Mom Has Fun Parenting! ebook is an excellent introduction to my program for teaching children and their parents emotional intelligence. But there's no way around it... fundamental changes take time. I really want you to have awesome results with this system! For that I need a bit more of your time so we can go slowly and take just one small step at a time. By having a 120-day home study course, you get a very satisfying way of learning that creates the greatest and most long-lasting results:

Mom Has Fun 12-Lesson Home Study Course

More Child Development & Parenting articles
You'll find good info on many topics using our site search: