6 ways to stop power struggles with children
“The best way to stop a dance is not to start one,” says Dr Robert J. Mackenzie in his book Setting Limits with Your Strong-willed Child. Children give off tempting baits which easily hook parents into power struggles. Dr Mackenzie offers the following tips to avoid power struggles altogether and stay firm.
When kids tune out, check in
One of the most common ways how children reel adults into power struggles is by tuning out and ignoring their requests. Sometimes children understand their parents’ request but choose to ignore it, testing the parent, expecting the latter to repeat and remind them many a time before actually doing what was asked of them.
As a parent, when wondering if your message got across or whether you are being ignored, you can make use of the check-in procedure. Dr Mackenzie advises that, when in doubt, check in with your child by saying one of the following:
“Did you understand what I said?” or “Tell me in your own words what you heard me say”.
When kids argue, cut it off
The time for arguing and debating is not when your rules are being tested or violated. That’s the time for action. If you take the bait and engage your child in an argument or debate over your rules, what you’re really saying is that your rules are negotiable. Parents who are willing to engage children in verbal sparring matches over their rules are opening the door for power struggles.
The cut-off procedure means ending an argument or discussion before it develops into a power struggle. When your child tries to hook you into arguing or debating over your rules, end the discussion by saying “we’re done talking about it. If you bring it up again, you’re going to have to spend the next five minutes by yourself in your room”. There’s nothing wrong with discussing your rules, but make sure that the discussion follows your child’s compliance.
When kids challenge, give limited choices
Limited choices are a highly effective method for helping children become aware of their choices when they decide to challenge or test rules. Restrict the number of choices you present, make your child responsible for the decision “What would you like to do?” and follow through with the stated consequence.
Ignore attitude, not misbehaviour
Profanity, name-calling, insults, hurtful statements or extreme rude gestures cross the line between attitude and misbehaviour.
When kids get hot-headed, cool them down
Effective problem solving is difficult for anyone, parents or children, to do in an atmosphere charged with emotion, especially anger. The cool-down keeps both sides off the dance floor until the time is right for problem solving. Allow sufficient time for all parties to restore control before problem solving.
And lastly, if you, as parents, cross the line, apologise to your child.