Tag Archives: opportunities

How to Step Out of a Power Struggle

When we engage in power struggles with our children, it means we are invested in being right. When we must be right—”I’m the parent, I know best. You must do what I say”—the child is wrong and is left feeling powerless. The child then must fight back to preserve integrity; either that or the easy-going child submits again and again learning in the process to seek the approval of others to gauge her self-worth.

Engaging in a power struggle keeps the parent in the position of having to be right.

Backing down from the fight may feel too vulnerable for many parents. The parent expect the child to back down, to give up, to acknowledge being wrong — in other words, the parent expects the child to be the grown-up first.

Parents often feel at a loss when they don’t know what to do, when what’s “right” is not apparent. It feels weak and scary. But this place of doubt, the space where you just don’t know, where vulnerability lives, is a place of opportunity — one never found when holding on to being right.

This is your teachable moment, because you are present. Stepping out of the power struggle means your agenda is not dictating right or wrong. The problem comes when you allow this space of unknowing to fill you with frustration and fear — when you think you have to have the answer in order to maintain a power and control position with your child. Bertrand Russell once said that the trouble with the world is that stupid people are cock-sure and smart people are full of doubt!

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Worried your child is a quitter?

How many times have you signed your child up for swimming, soccer, gymnastics, violin or piano lessons, camp—she even being begged for it—only to hear, “I don’t want to go”? It’s hard not to be furious—“But you said this is what you wanted”—especially when money is involved. Sometimes your child has been involved with the team or the lessons and says, “I want to quit.”

There’s no doubt that parents have hopes and expectations wrapped up in their child’s learning experiences. And what of the parent who never got the opportunity for anything extracurricular and is proud to be able to afford these opportunities for his child? Or the parent whose childhood was formed by her camp experiences, yet her child stubbornly refuses to go to camp?

Fears pop quickly to the surface: “She’s a quitter”, “He never can commit to anything”, “What will her boss do when she decides one morning she doesn’t want to go to work?” “He just gives up.” Those fears lead us to all kinds of bribery and manipulation to get our kids to do what we want, what we think is best, never realizing how powerful our own agendas are.

“How far should I push and when do I let it go? Don’t I have to set high expectations?”

“I can’t let it go because he’s missing this incredible opportunity.”

“She’s being an unappreciative brat. Everything has to be her way. She has no consideration for what we have gone through to make this happen.”

It’s hard to let go.

The truth is that kids may want to join something, and if it doesn’t turn out the way they wanted, they will want to quit. Wouldn’t you? We jump to the “quitter” conclusion way too quickly and decide that our child will never follow thru on anything.

Do you remember being pressured to do something you didn’t want to do? Did you ever think something was a great idea and then changed your mind? Of course you did. That didn’t make you a quitter.

Youth is about taking advantage of opportunities to try out all kinds of different things. Most children don’t know where their passions lie for many years to come. If a child hits on an activity that is of great interest she will stick to it, but if she tries something that isn’t what she wanted, she will want to stop.

Many kids find nothing of interest until high school, college or even beyond. We need to present opportunities to our children with the expectation that if it clicks, great, if not, oh well, let’s try something else. When he finds a match for his interest, he will stay. Knowing that requires our trust in our child’s potential. Think of these opportunities as a smorgasbord giving your child a taste of many things. Some are good, some not.

What to do in the face of refusal or desire to quit:

• Look at all the facets. Could it be the teacher, particular instrument or sport, or other children involved that your child doesn’t like? Perhaps your child is feeling stressed and over programmed and simply needs a break from activities.

• Acknowledge your child’s dislike, boredom, wish to stay home. Acknowledgement does not mean agreement. “Sounds like you changed your mind/are not happy with this program anymore/don’t feel like going today.”

• Use logical consequences. If he wants to quit, let him know about the teacher or director’s point of view. “She is expecting you. You will need to let her know that you won’t be coming. I’ll get the number so you can call.” “The team expects you to be there. We need to show up today so you can talk to the coach.”

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