Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Power Struggles?

Power struggles are easy to get into and when you are the adult they are easy to win. The real question is not whether or not you can win a power struggle with your child, the real question is should you win a power struggle with your child or anyone else for that matter.


Everyone has power in a relationship. In a truly happy relationships, people show respect for one another. My grandma use to say do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? You cannot be both.


It wasn't until I was an adult and many years older that I started to understand what she meant. When I am always right, then someone else is always wrong. People do not remember what you tell them, they remember how you make them feel. So if I have to right all the time then the other person walks away feeling wrong, like a loser. How long does anyone want to be around me or anyone else when they end up feeling like a loser 24/7? People who are always right are rarely happy and some spend a lot of time alone.

This is even more pronounced when in a power struggle with children that leads to them being overpowered. Even when you win, ultimately you lose. A child by nature is smaller and more likely to incite power struggles as they are trying to gain some control over their lives over their feelings of powerlessness.

When an adult overpowers a child, the child feels their powerlessness, their smallness more so. Often times children who are rarely allowed to make a decision for them self will grow up as an insecure, dependent, helpless adult or rebellious in their nature.

Empowering children leaves them feeling competent to make decisions in their own behalf. In reality life is full of situations in which, to one extreme or another, we are powerless over. We don't however have to be helpless. One of the ways adults can stay in control and also foster empowerment in children is to give them two options that you can live with (NEVER post an option you don't want them to take they will invariably pick the one you can't live with). This way the situation becomes a win, win situation for both of you.

Many time parents are in power struggles with toddlers over eating, potty training...really who is the silly one here? Can we really gain power over when a child peas or poops or eats? This type of control is an illusion. Seriously, the only adult who needs this much control that belongs to someone so small is someone who feels so powerless and helpless them self. The point of potty training and any other aspect of parenting is to support the child in gaining control over her or himself.

Knowing how to teach or model behavior that clearly differentiates between powerless (lack of control over other people, places and things) versus control over our own choices (empowerment versus helplessness) is the ultimate parenting skill.