Tag Archives: powerless

Don’t Take It Personally

What happens to you when your child behaves less than perfectly? When he ignores you or she screams, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Some of you can respond effectively by changing your behavior and addressing whatever the situation is from a different or calmer place, with a different attitude, tone or posture. But probably many of you get your button pushed, think your child is out to get you and yell back behaving just the way you don’t want your child to behave.

The difference is the parent who takes it personally and the parent who doesn’t. So what makes the difference?

When I’m working with parents on this, I often describe the cartoon in my book “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” on p.86. The mother is trying her hardest to deflect those oncoming critical remarks with a shield, but the onslaught catches her off guard, and she doesn’t get her shield up in time, so the remarks hit her hard. This perfectly illustrates taking it personally. Once those remarks, attitudes, behaviors are allowed to get past your shield (your boundary), it’s next to impossible to respond neutrally and effectively.

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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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