Power Struggles – The consistent nightmare of parenting

Nobody is perfect, not even parents.  The best of us have bad days.

When parents are under stress, tired or preoccupied, they often slip into domination (“Just do it because I say so”) or permissiveness (“Do whatever you want”).  

For me as a parent, the most aggravating persistent dilemma was the constant power struggles with my children. And, it peaks when they become adolescents.

My daughter just turned 16 and just received her driver’s license. We have a new Arizona driver on the road. Teaching her to drive was downright scary. Since she could turn right on a red light, she decided that she could turn left on a red light.  She said, “I just got my left and right mixed up.” YIKES!!  

And, the hardest part of teaching her to drive was the constant power struggles.

My suggestions for defensive driving were nothing more than lectures to her. When I said she was getting too close to the curb, she would bark back, “I can see the line in my rearview mirror and I am not too close.”  

If your attitude is to win a conflict at all costs, you may win the battle, but lose the war (your child).

If you win the conflict and destroy your relationship with your child, you’ve lost the war. The war is “How can I have a positive influence on my child, keep their interest in living the best life, and still have them do the right thing. 

Top Strategies strategies to help keep you out of the threat routine and power struggles

The goal in any confrontation is to avoid the power struggle in a respectful way. 

  • LISTEN-ACKNOWLEDGE-DEFER
  • Know what pushes your button. The kids do.
  • Don’t take the bait.
  • Take charge of your negative emotions.
  • Act-don’t react. Give yourself 3 seconds.
  • Watch what you say or do and how you say it.
  • Model non-aggressive behavior.
  • Allow your child to save face. You don’t always have to have the last word

Moreover, some young people are easier to reason with than others. A bad day or a pressured decision will not have a profound effect on a child. What matters is the general pattern, over time.

Responsive child-rearing takes time and energy, but it’s worth the effort.

Parents who have always had a good relationship with their child have a head start on good relations with their adolescent, which is where power struggles peak.  

KCA Parents' ToolKit

But all is not lost for parents whose style tends to be permissive, dictatorial, or even neglectful. You can learn to be a responsive parent, and your child’s behavior will improve as a result.  

The most effective parents are loving but also demanding. In Carl Rogers’ phrase, they give their child “unconditional positive regard.”  They enjoy doing things with their child and take pride in her accomplishments. 

They believe that parents have an obligation to understand their child’s needs and feelings, treat the child’s interests and problems as meaningful, and show genuine concern.  At the same time, they set well-defined limits. 

How do we stay out of power struggles with our children and become more responsive instead of combative? 

There are several excellent techniques to keep you grounded, respectful and loving to your child while still setting limits, which is “unconditional positive regard.”

Some of those techniques are the fogging technique (without judgment), which includes comments such as this, “That’s possible.” “Possibly so.”  And, giving yourself time to calm down, doing it in private and calling their bluff, e.g., “You said your dad said you don’t have to do the work. That’s interesting.” Another great technique is a direct approach, “That’s inappropriate. You know it. I know it and we’ll talk about it later.”

I have compiled a complete list of 13 top techniques to help you become more responsive and less combative with your child. Keep small problems small. “Is what I am doing escalating or de-escalating the problem?”

Responsive parents do not demand unquestioning obedience from their children; nor do they give their children free rein. Their rules are based on reasoning, and their limits built on love.

There is a difference, though, between showing that you care and that you want to understand and indulging your child’s every wish. As long as you maintain your authority, you can’t be too loving.  

Trite as it may sound, love is the most important thing you can give your child.

But love alone is not enough. Being a parent means a never-ending learning and practicing of new techniques. But you do not have to do it alone! Join our fast-growing Facebook community for support.