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Overcoming Power Struggles with your Child


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Do you have daily power struggles with your child? This can take its toll on both of you. First, take time to reflect on when these power struggles occur. Is it over food? Homework? Bedtime? Having friends come over? Or just about everything?

If you can narrow down the problem it's helpful. If you only have power struggles over food, rethink how you approach the situation. Let's say its dinner time and your child says they aren't going to eat the meal. You argue back and forth about them eating. You finally give in and let them not eat. But you also let them drink three glasses of milk to fill themselves up. (1) Three glasses of milk is not a substitute for dinner. You can't make your child eat, but you can decide what they can eat and drink. So don't let them fill themselves up on milk. (2) If they are a picky eater finds foods they like to eat. (3) Lastly, do be grateful that eating is the only issue you have with your child. Things could be worse. Don't make power struggles. Pick your battles. It's not worth the stress on the family.

However, if you have power struggles over many issues you should take a stand, because the more your child gets away with things the more power struggles you might end up having. Be firm. And say what you want your child to do in a firm manner. If you say things in weak or baby sweet voice your child won't take you as seriously. This could be where your problem lies. You don't have to yell at your child to get them to do something, but you need to show your child you mean business by using a firm tone of voice. Let's say you have a daily problem of getting your child to get off the computer. You usually say in a sing-song voice, Sweety time to get off the computer. You know it's time. " Your child says, Just a few more minutes mom. " You say, Okay Sweety. " Stop. Think about this. Your child knows you don't mean it when you say it's time to get off the computer because you are letting them have a few more minutes. Which could lead to a few more minutes. And then that could lead into you both arguing about it. Also, your voice wasn't consistent with what you wanted. Children pick up on this. You must be firm in your voice and in your decision. Time to get off the computer means time to get off the computer. Now grant it with the computer they might need a couple of minutes to finish something. So you could say this, Tim, I'm giving you your five minute warning. I want you to start saving what you're doing now and get off the computer. " If Tim agrees and does not get off the computer in five minutes, you need to shut the computer down for him. If he has a fit, there's no computer time for tomorrow. No exceptions. I believe power struggles keep happening because parents don't take a firm enough stand with what they want AND aren't consistent with their follow through. You have to be. Change will take time, but it should happen. At first your child could get angry. Work through this. Let him know it's not okay to not do what you asked him to do.

Some children will try arguing with you once you make your decision. You say, Time to go to bed. " They say, Do I have to? Why?" Don't get into a debate about it. Tell them what you want them to do and walk away. I know a parent who does this. Yes, her child does try to follow her and say, But why? Give me one good reason?" You could have eight. That's not the point. You should expect your child to listen to you. Children who have opposition defiant disorder can try to push and push issues. I believe this is what you should do: Say what you expect of them and tell them you are walking away because they are arguing about it. If they talk back and say how rude you are being, don't fall for the bait. You know you aren't being rude. They know it too. They are just trying to get you to argue about it. Say what you expect them to do and don't let there be a power struggle about it. One parent who acknowledged they had trouble when speaking to their child about their expectations found this helpful. Write down on a piece of paper, I will take a firm stand with what I expect of my child. I will also consistently follow through with what I have decided. We will not argue about it. There will be no power struggles about it. " Look at this and repeat it. If you start believing it, then hopefully you will start implementing it. Subsequently, you should see a change in how you deal with your child and how they react to what you expect of them.

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