Get rid of power struggles
Power-struggles are no fun at all. At times, it can seem like the only way through an obstacle is to roar through it. When kids dig in heals or fail to follow instructions, your go-to method may be yelling, blaming and shaming.
Using this technique with kids usually results in them shutting down, at least in the short-term. You have won the battle, you have ‘slammed the door’ but it may well have slammed in your own face. Kids might do what you need, but they don’t do it willingly and they often do it more slowly and less efficiently. Sometimes you have to be the one who does it for them (getting them dressed, gathering their things, forcing food into their mostly closed lips).
Here are two effective techniques for power-struggles:
Dis(solving) a Power-Struggle
Power-Struggle = Parent against Kid
When we shift things slightly: Parent + Kid against the situation, we have removed the struggle as the parent and child are on the same side against the situation.
Example: Child won’t put on sunscreen. Parent is forcing child to put on sunscreen, “You have to put it on!” “I won’t!” “YOU HAVE TO!” “NO!”
Parent says, “Wow, we’ve got a problem. You don’t want to put on the sunscreen and you need to wear it; how can we work together to get the sunscreen on you? I know you don’t like this feeling. What is the best place on your body to start with sunscreen? Are you rubbing it or am I?”
When we move from parent against child to parent and child against the sunscreen, we dissolve the power struggle. When the parent stops struggling, the struggle is done.
Encouragement vs Discouragement
Both of these words have the word ‘courage’ as their root word. When we encourage people, we give them the courage to try. When we discourage people, we remove any courage to try. They give up.
Encouragement means using language that gives our kids the courage to try. The language says that we believe the child is capable and that there is hope in the situation.
Example: Child is taking forever to change after the pool.
Discouraging language: “It is taking you forever Jack! We are never going to get out of here on time. Mom is going to be mad because we will be late for dinner. How are we ever going to get you ready?”
Encouraging language: “Jack, Mom is waiting for us for dinner. You’ve taken some time to get your wiggles out which means we are ready to get you dressed and get out of here. What are we starting with, your shirt or your underwear? Now we just need to put on these few things and we’ll be home right away.”
Kids rely on us to show them the way. When we tell them it cannot be done, or belittle them, we are slamming the door in our own faces. When we take the time to get on their side, teach problem-solving, ask questions and give courage, we are building positive momentum on a very long parenting journey.