Parenting 101: Power Struggles

Parenting 101 is a series of posts that I have written to help out new parents by teaching them little tricks and tips to make this whole journey a bit easier.  They are not Earth shattering revelations, and they do not follow any certain parenting philosophy.  They are simply tips to make life with children a bit easier for everyone.

Power struggles are one of the hardest parts of parenting.  You proclaim that something must be done this way.  Your child refuses to do it that way.  You dig in.  You threaten.  You take something away and put it out of reach.  Your child digs in.  He starts yelling, kicking, hitting.  There is no happy ending in sight.

No one enjoys these moments.

So, how do you navigate these moments without them turning into a power struggle?

5 tips for avoiding power struggles:

*Realize that very little in life has to be one way.  When you are about to dig in your heels on an issue, stop and ask yourself WHY?  Why do I feel that this must be done this way?  Is it because that is how I want it to be done, or because there is really no other way to do it?  If the answer is that there is really only one way to do it, then you have no choice but to do it that way.  If this is one of the other 99% of all interactions, try a little creative thinking and decide if there is another way to accomplish your goal.
*Reevaluate the goal, and determine if what you think is your goal actually is your goal.  Much of the time, we think that our goal is one thing when actually we are thinking of the path to the goal.  For example, is your goal really to throw away a choking hazard, or is it to keep a baby safe?  If it is to keep a baby safe, is there another way to do it besides throwing away a choking hazard?
*Consider whether there may be a way to compromise.  There is nearly always a way to compromise on an issue.  Even when it is a safety issue, is there a way to do it differently that would be safe?
*Consider the event from the other person’s point of view.  It is very easy to get stuck in our own point of view, but it can inhibit one’s ability to find a compromise.  People very rarely do things just to bother other people.  After all, who wants to hang out with a grump?  So consider that the other person probably has a reason for wanting things to be done their way as well.  Considering from both perspectives may help a compromise to become evident.
*Consider whether the relationship is more important than the issue – or not?  Sometimes, there is a deal breaker.  But much of the time, the relationship really is more important than the issue.  If this is the case, decide how to back down in a way that allows you to maintain your dignity as well.  Often, simply saying, “You know, I have thought about it and decided that I don’t actually care as much about this issue as I thought I did,” is a great way to back out of an uncomfortable situation.
Power struggles don’t have to happen.  You have the power to make them not happen.  These tips apply to parenting, but also to relationships in general.  I use the same methods with my 2 year old, my almost 5 year old, my almost 7 year old, and my husband.  And all of our relationships have flourished because of it.
What other tips do you have for avoiding power struggles?

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