When do children stop fighting for power?
It starts as a toddler. Our little one refuses to hand over
a toy or stop an activity. In his mind, the idea that anyone would want to stop
him from doing what he is doing is inconceivable due to his egocentric stage of
development. There is only one point of view – his own. HOW could Mom or Dad
want something different than what he knows to be true for his happiness?
It continues through 3 and 4. Egocentric development gives
way and our preschooler starts to realise that there are other points of view.
But she is often being told what to do, and where/when to do it. As she
realises that she is more capable, she fights for the opportunity to control
Does it stop in Kindergarten? Elementary school? Certainly
not Jr. High and kids are pushing for control through High School and beyond.
What about at work? On the hockey rink? Wouldn’t it be great
to finally have control on the golf course? What about if those other drivers
would learn how to drive the right way – like us? How about when our kids don’t
listen or do what we want them to do?
Wait a minute? Do we ever stop fighting for control? That,
dear reader is up to you.
Humans love predictability. We crave routine and love to
know how things are going to happen with all of the details. We often dread
change and will work hard to preserve the status quo even when we don’t really
like it that much.
And yet it has been said that the only 2 constants in the
world are death and taxes. Taxes are always changing and death is something of
a change itself. Change is all we have going for us and controlling it is
pretty hard to do.
This explains our love of routine – it brings us safety and
predictability and a false sense of control in a world where things are
constantly in flux. When we think about it that way, it is not hard to see why
our kids want control/power from such an early age. Knowing how things are
going to work brings comfort, a sense of safety and intelligence.
So how do we stop the fight for control?
- It takes two to tango – if
one of us stops, the dance is over.
Often when facing a defiant
child, it is easy to get caught up in the race to be the one with more power.
I’m the adult, I’m the parent, what I say goes! We are modelling the fight for
power and our kids learn this one quite well.
At Parenting Power, we rely on a
change in perception:
You against your child becomes you and your child against the
Suddenly, you and your child are
on the same side, working together to solve the problem.
You might say, “Wow – we have a
problem here. I want this and you want this, how are we going to make this
- Handing over power when it
can be handed over
There are many situations in
which parents must have the final say. However, in many instances, we are
maintaining power in situations where it is no longer required and doing things
for our children which they are able to do for themselves. Children’s abilities
are changing constantly and sometimes we are so busy with life that we don’t see
how capable they are. We argue with them about eating a snack, getting ready
for school, or doing homework when they are ready to be involved in making a
plan for this, and doing it for themselves. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t
there to love them, teach them, and support them, but we can become open to
their strengths and hand over some of the decision-making and problem-solving
Ultimately, our ability to control what is happening in our
lives is minimal and that can be very difficult to accept. Perhaps that is why
we struggle to control the things we think we can: the behaviour of our
children. Having realistic expectations of ourselves and the extent of our
control can be the first step of awareness to giving up the fight. Modelling
that for our children, may be the next.