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Avoiding Power Struggles With Children

Apr 11, 2008
Do not enter into power struggles with your children. Nobody wins in a power struggle. It's just not worth it. Most power struggles happen as our children come into their teenage years however younger children can be very good at this too.

Recently we were at home one Friday night when some of my son's friends came knocking at our door. They wanted Kieren (age 13) to come outside with them and play Spotlight with them at the park. It was 8.30pm at night when they called and my children had just arrived home from Youth Group. So they were hardly being deprived of entertainment. Yet my son decided that he was going to play in the park with his friends no matter what mum said. The conversation went something like this:

"Mum, can I please go out and play with all my friends?" I knew I was in for a tough few minutes with my son but I firmly said, "No, Kieren. We have already been out tonight. You are not going out again". I waited for the back chat and I didn't have to wait very long. "Oh, Mum, all my friends are outside and I'm going. You can't stop me". Silence. I thought for a few seconds and decided to repeat my first answer again. So I said to him, "You are not going outside tonight Kieren". Then I walked away.

I could hear him becoming more and more disgruntled and talking out loud with his protesting but I stood my ground. I had to endure about ten minutes of major protesting and a couple of door slams however he did not try to leave the house that night. I believe I won the victory because I did not try to force him to be happy about my decision. He was very angry at me but after a few minutes he calmed down. You cannot always get a teenager to say sorry straight away. That night, Kieren needed time to cool off. I think he went to bed angry with me. But in the morning he came to me with an apology.

Negative behaviours come about by the need to exert power and control over other people. Some of these common behaviours are: picky eating, dawdling, threatening. When you have a child exhibiting these traits you need to offer choices rather than giving demands. This will ease the pain of conflict and prevent many power struggles.

It is pretty much human nature for all of us from time to time to resist authority. But you must understand that resistance or rebellion doesn't mean that your child wants to win or conquer you. They are just testing you and want to know that you will not waver in your boundaries. This makes them feel secure so that they can operate confidently knowing that mum or dad will give them the direction they need in life.

I have come to realise that as a mother of teenagers it is not always your job to be liked. Often children will hate you for the boundaries you give them, in the short term. But the very next morning Kieren came back to me with an apology.
About the Author
Kim Patrick is a single mother with four children, living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is author of the book, Get Your Child To Behave In 30 Days Or Less .
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