By: Margie Frisco, MA, LPC-Associate
Supervised by Melissa Barton, LPC-S
Power struggles with kids can feel like torture as a parent. You want the child to do what you need them to do. But the power of wills can be an epic battle. Finding healthy ways to deal with this stress can be helpful for you and your child. Let’s explore some ways to avoid getting into this tug-of-war!
What is a Power Struggle?
First, let’s start with defining what a power struggle is. How do they start? What are they over? Many times we can find ourselves needing children to do something. For instance, this can be putting on their shoes to leave for school.
Power struggles can be very frustrating for parents. Power struggles are ineffective as both the child and parent are left feeling frustrated and not doing the task. Furthermore, frustration can build between the parent and child, exploding into a battle.
How do I Avoid Power Struggles?
Ways to avoid power struggles are for the parent to remain calm, give the child options, wait for them to ask for help, and to consider your options as a parent. For example, when a child’s feelings escalate, it can trigger us as parents. Often in family therapy, we see that when emotions get more significant, others match the level of emotions to assert dominance. Keep in mind there are healthy ways to keep the power but still have your child experience their feelings too.
Giving the child options can be very helpful in allowing your child to find solutions. Think of a time when you were a child and felt big feelings. Children do not have complex thought patterns yet. I mean that analytical thought processing is complicated for children, especially when emotions make rational thought tough.
Waiting for the child to ask for help can be very difficult. When we give the child an opportunity to ask for help, this allows the child to problem solve on their own and build confidence when things do not go their way. Moreover, this allows your child to self-soothe when they have big feelings.
Considering your options as a parent can help you focus on a solution versus their poor behavior. This can help you see what can be done to help you stay calm. If we focus on their behavior, we keep the power struggle alive and growing. If we focus on our behaviors, we can control ourselves and our reactions to reduce our elevated feelings.
What do I do When I am in a Power Struggle?
Once in a power struggle, it can be challenging to get out of it. The first step would be to defuse the situation. This means lowering everyone’s feelings so we can introduce rational thought. You can defuse the problem by using distractions, practicing deep breathing, reminding the child of a funny story, getting them to participate in a game (i.e., race to get shoes on), or even dancing.
Additionally, once in a power struggle, this can be an excellent opportunity to show your child how to regulate emotionally. You can show them how to calm their feelings in a healthier way versus getting into a tug of war. And for that parenting guilt, teaching your child how to regulate emotionally is how children learn. As much as we do not want our children to feel big feelings, we need to prepare them for if (when) they do.
Demonstrate how to say sorry. If we participated in the power struggle, we might feel bad about our actions. Showing them how to be humble and apologize when they do something wrong is how they learn.
Talk things out when calm. Once everyone feels relaxed and has had time to regulate their emotions, then they can have a logical talk about how to handle the situation better. Remember, no one is perfect. Showing your child how to deal with these emotions and what could have been done differently can be very helpful. And it gives your child an opportunity to tell you why and how they got to those feelings. This increases healthy emotion expression.
Begin Child and/or Parent Counseling at Our Center in Katy, TX!
If you would like more help with power struggles, one of the therapists at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch can help! To begin counseling in Katy, Texas, follow these three steps:
- Contact our office to set up an appointment or get more information on power struggles.
- Meet with one of our understanding therapists
- Find other ways to help your child with therapy today!
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Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch, we offer counseling services for people of all ages in areas including counseling for kids, counseling for young adults, teen counseling, couples counseling, eating disorder treatment, men’s issues, women’s issues, anxiety treatment, depression therapy, trauma counseling, family therapy, and group counseling. We provide helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. Our therapists strive to post blogs