Tag Archives: resistance

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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Mar. ’19 Q&A – Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent, Angry Behavior and When the Coach is a Bully

Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent

Q. I do welcome your advice and think you speak a lot of sense, but I am not sure about your advice to be your child’s friend in one of your articles. What is wrong with being a mum? I am the only person who can officially be regarded as mum in my daughter’s life and I feel very proud to be so. I am not sure being a friend is possible as the friendship is automatically unbalanced. I have a number of very good friends, some long term and we have quite balanced relationships, involving give and take. I do not regard my relationship with my daughter as balanced, and she does not seem to understand give and take. I would also say she is a very high maintenance friend, and therefore I would go out of my way not to be her friend if she wasn’t my daughter. I don’t think she is like that with her peers though – I think their relationship is balanced. When choosing activities, we try to pick nice things to do and see, and we get a lot of resistance from her until we get her there and then she loves it. We also get resistance around food and most things at the moment – she is quite selfish and does not seem to understand the notion of helping out, and she wants things from shops all the time, which is wearing.

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Jan. ’19 Q&A – Fantasy Play, Honor Who Your Child is, and Understanding the Draw of Xbox

Fantasy Play

Q. My 4 year old loves pretend play. She often starts out the day by saying, ” pretend I’m Peter Pan and you’re ….” It almost seems like a deep-seated need to play this way. I find that if I don’t play with her like this then she is harder to deal with. I guess another way I think about it, is that when I play with her and follow her direction, it fills her up. I haven’t studied child psychology, but I was wondering if you could provide more insight into this type of play.

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Engaging Kids in Housework

Kids don’t want to do chores. That’s a fact. Expect this. That doesn’t mean let them off the hook. It is essential for our kids to be contributing members of the family to develop an investment in and consideration for their family members. A family is a team. When you are on a team, every team player is important to the working of the whole.

But when you yell, bribe, or threaten them to do their chores, the underlying assumption is that they should want to but they don’t. This unrealistic expectation means you will yell when that expectation is not met. But if you understand that kids don’t want to do chores, you will be more effective at ensuring they get to work.

Remember when your toddlers and preschoolers begged to run the vacuum, fold laundry, wash windows, and sweep the floor? It would have taken the entire morning and you’d have to do it over anyway. You didn’t have the time or patience so you got them out of the way to just get it done. Well, you might have missed your chance. Little children want to help — until we make them.

By the time they are capable of doing a decent job, time has elapsed since toddler enthusiasm, and they no longer want to be with you every minute of the day. They are into their own thing and household tasks take them away from their own thing. Of course they don’t want to.

Now, you know your kids are going to fight you, moan, and complain when you ask them to do their chores. Who wants that? Plus you’ll have to police them, and then what if they don’t do them? That’s when consequences come in to play — usually taking something away that they care about, which turns into a battle and you erode any inkling of desire. Certainly no self-esteem is developed.

Requiring help is not about teaching them how to clean house or making them do chores for the sake of doing chores. Your kids will most likely keep a decent house one day even if they never clean yours. And they will learn to do what has to be done when it’s their responsibility. Requiring help is about helping. It’s about team work, taking on responsibilities to help the team run more smoothly. It’s about the relationship a child has with his family. It’s about seeing oneself as a helper. A helping child will be far more invested in family events and planning when she feels like an important member of the team, and she will feel more connected to her family as a source of support (the most important protective factor in anything you fear for your child).

It feels good to know that you help your family out. You feel proud of being needed, of doing things that save time for someone else. I once overheard my twelve-year-old son and his friend trying to best each other as they compared household jobs, griping as their chests swelled. That doesn’t mean they want to or would offer help if you didn’t require it. Don’t expect the offer to help for many years. Instead expect grumbling.

 

Here are some key points to help your kids be better helpers:

  • Ditch the word “chores”. No one wants to do chores, but people like to be helpful, useful. Use “help” or “jobs”.
  • Understand and be considerate of their agendas, even things you hate them doing or think of as trite. Remember, your child’s agenda is as important to him as yours is to you. Expect them to want to play rather than help.
  • A child’s job is to get what she wants, when she wants it. We are all like that. Maturity opens the perception that other people want what they want, too. So, consideration and compromises become necessary for relationships. You don’t have to teach your child this (the teaching comes in the doing), and if you try too early, your attempts will fall on deaf, egocentric ears.
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    Dec. ’18 Q&A – Big Emotions, Angry Outbursts and a Must Read

    Handling Big Emotions and Understanding the Behavior

    Q. We had an episode with our 5 1/2 yr. old son. For the past 2 years, we have tried every approach. Our son is smart but immature. We feel he lacks confidence and tends to hold things in rather than talk. I tried to get to the root cause but he still won’t budge (one might say stubborn). Tonight he was off the wall jumping on chairs, interrupting when I had someone over and had to help them work. No matter how many times my husband or I ask him to stop jumping on chairs, he would say “no never”. He has a temper – will hit, throw, slam doors, spit and call us “stupid” or say “never” when we’re explaining how we want him to stop hitting and start listening. However, his tantrums have become less frequent and recovering has become quicker except tonight. Usually he’ll go through the tantrum and then start crying. If we try to challenge him and he’s in the mood, he’ll do it.  But most of the time, he’ll say, no let’s do something totally different or I can’t or don’t know how. If I say I’ll show you, then he’ll whine and say he’s a baby. He always has a comeback. What do you think?

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    June ’18 Q&A – Refusing the Toilet, Unrealistic Expectations and Huge Feelings

    Refusing the Toilet

    Q. My 3 yr old daughter goes to a small home daycare and uses the toilet there without accidents but refuses to use the toilet at home. I understand that it’s more of a control issue than a potty training issue. I have been letting her wear pull ups at home as long as she puts them on herself. She still refuses to try the toilet. There hasn’t been any event that I can think of that would have scared her. She is very verbal and will tell me that she just doesn’t like to use our potty. She won’t poop at daycare either. She holds it until she gets home and gets a pull up on and then she goes.

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    March ’18 Q&A – Getting Choices to Work, Getting a Spouse On Board and Swearing

    Getting Choices to Work

    Q. What is the next step after saying, “You can either pick up that toy you threw and put it in the box or hand it to me. Which do you choose?” and the child refuses to choose or states they refuse to do either? I frequently find this with my 3 year old daughter. We either end up in a power struggle or I end up letting it go and the toy is left or I pick it up. 

    A. I would add, “If you can’t make the choice right now, let’s take a break and do something else and then come back to it.” If you put it to her the moment she has thrown the toy it is too soon because she is deep in her anger. Next time give it time for her emotions and yours to calm. I might also start with “Do you want to…” instead of “You can either…” which sounds a little more threatening. If your anger is behind your words, she will definitely not respond. Take a break, do some calming down activity, then acknowledge the anger that made her throw the toy – “You were very angry when I asked you to put your toys away. You didn’t want to do that so you threw one of them because you felt mad.” You then normalize her feelings and let her know she is okay. Then say, “Are you ready now to make a choice? Do you want to bring it to me or put it in the box?” Once feelings are calmed, she is more likely to want to make amends.

    If you suspect that a choice like that will meet with resistance, try instead, “Do you want to pick up the toy you threw and put it in the box or have me put it away for awhile? If it’s too hard for you to choose, I will choose for you and put it away.” The trick to stay out of the power struggle is to remain calm. That is the only way you are able to hand over power to her to make the choice. If you get into a power struggle it means that you are fighting to make her do it your way, which she will naturally resist.

    If you see that she is struggling and having a hard time coping with her emotions instead of being disobedient, then you will feel compassion for her. It will then be easier to allow her time to get through her struggle — maybe with a hug, a walk outside, reading a book, whatever she needs that will help her calm down and get out of her stuck place. When the power struggle ends because you do not engage in it, she will be more cooperative. Her age means she is mostly impulsive and also has learned that she is her own person and can resist you. If her temperament is strong-willed, you will not get anywhere by forcing her to do it your way. And it’s not the end of the world if you see how hard she is struggling and you pick it up for her. But know that it doesn’t have to be dealt with immediately. Give her time.

     

    Getting a Spouse On Board

    Q. I am a mother of toddler twin boys. My natural parenting style is to parent connectively, and I have found your books refreshing and reaffirming. However, my husband feels that I should be a little “strong” when it comes to discipline. We have a wonderful relationship, and he is a great father. But I would like for us to be on the same page when it comes to disciplining the boys. He just doesn’t have the time to read your books, and I never seem to be able to quite convince him without feeling that I am telling him what to do. Do you have any suggestions for how to share connective parenting concisely with someone who isn’t able to spend the time reading? Are there things you use in your workshops to help convince the nay-sayers without making them feel “wrong”?

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    The Dos and Don’ts of Power Struggles

    When my daughter Molly was five, I was exhausted and drained everyday. I couldn’t see a way out of our daily power struggles. She was pushing all my buttons, and I was reacting with hostility. But it was the mental notes playing in my head that got me the most. I was worried we would fight always. Fortunately I was wrong.

    One morning, the same whiny, grumpy face approached with that ever-present protruding lower lip—but something was different. Every other morning when I saw this face, I thought to myself, “She’s out to get me. She’s doing this on purpose to make me mad.”

    This particular morning it occurred to me, “Wait a minute, she’s not out to get me. She’s miserable.” Suddenly I saw her differently. Instead of a resistant, defiant—okay I’ll say it—brat, I saw a very upset little girl who didn’t want to leave me to go off to school. I was battling her, and she was anticipating the battle. She got up every school morning dreading what was coming and preparing for our skirmishes. She had no idea how to tell me any other way than, “I don’t want to go to school,” and all I could think was how annoying she was being.

    My shift in perception—she wasn’t being a problem, she was having a problem—changed our relationship forever. My emotions switched from anger to compassion. Once I made that switch, I didn’t have to fight her anymore. We never had another power struggle—because I chose not to engage.

    The Power Struggle

    A power struggle is a fight to the finish when you and your child are both out to win. Most parents believe they are right because, after all, they’re the parent. But consider this, if you win, your child must lose. It’s your fear that fuels your need to win. Your child shows defiance, and you think, I’m a terrible parent and my child will be a terrible person. However, in the moment of the defiance, you do have a choice even if you feel trapped. You can fight back or not.

    There is no power struggle if you choose not to engage. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

    The Don’ts:

    • Don’t try to reason with an upset child. Rational thought is impossible when the system is stressed.
    • Don’t resist resistance.
    • Don’t punish, threaten or coerce.
    • Don’t give in or try to fix it. If you feel responsible for your child’s feelings, you will try to make him happy (which is not within your power), you will inevitably lose, and then you’ll feel like a failure.
    • Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. Your child is expressing upset in the only way he knows how right now.
    • Don’t ask questions.
    • Don’t worry, jump to conclusions or catastrophize into the future.

    Here’s what to Do instead:

    • Detach. This is your child’s problem, not yours.
    • Observe and listen. Allow your child’s feelings to come out until they dissipate.
    • Maintain a “holding” attitude. See the hurt she is feeling and empathize. Remember she’s having a problem.
    • Hold her as soon as she will let you.
    • Acknowledge feelings and intention. “You really don’t want to go to school today. I bet you wish you could stay home and play with me.”
    • Allow in fantasy what can’t happen in reality. “Wouldn’t it be fun if you had a magic wand. What would you like to change?”
    • Honor desires. “Of course you’d like that. I’m not going to get that for you, but how do you think you could make that happen?”
    • Offer a choice. “Do you want to put your clothes on or would you like me to today?” “You don’t have a choice about going to school but you do have a choice about how you feel about it. You can be grumpy or you can be open to what happens. It’s your choice.”
    • Be an intentional parent. Plan, anticipate, give warnings, set predictable expectations and be firm and clear with limits.

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    Parenting at the Beach

    While relaxing at the beach, I could not help but overhear snippets of interactions from a very nice looking family not too far from us. Here is teaching at it’s best—seeing and hearing from an objective perspective—this time it was what NOT to do.

    Here are a few disjointed pieces of overheard dialogue:

    Mom (to her maybe 5 yr. old son): “Come on, you’re going in the water.”

    Son (crying): “No, I don’t want to.”

    Mom: “Are you going to make me pour a bucket of water over you? Stop that whining. One more minute and that bathing suit comes off and I’m going to spank your bottom.”

    She asked him to do something and he refused.

    Mom: “Well then if you don’t do what I want, I won’t do what you want. I’m not giving you any Cheez-its.” To the others, tauntingly, “Who wants Cheez-its. They’re so good.” To her son, who says he wants some, “No, you can’t have any.”

    Mom (taking a picture of him), “Open your eyes, butthead.”

    Dad was bagging his surfboard. In response to something his son said: “That’s because you’re a weenie. You were off whining.”

    When they were leaving, the boy was told to carry his bucket full of things, and he didn’t want to. Mom said he had to, and she and another woman walked off and left him. He began crying. Dad, who hadn’t heard the interaction was still behind packing his things and asked him what was wrong. Very angrily the boy screamed at him, “Nothing!” Dad: “You speak to me like that again and you’re in the water.” Dad ignored him after that. They left with the boy lagging way behind screaming all the way.

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    The Do’s and Don’ts of Ending Power Struggles – Forever

    When my daughter Molly was five, I was exhausted. I couldn’t see a way out of our daily power struggles. She was pushing all my buttons, and I was reacting with hostility. But it was the mental notes playing in my head that got me the most. I was worried we would fight always. Fortunately I was wrong.

    One morning, the same whiny, angry face approached—but something was different. Every other morning when I saw this face, I thought to myself, “She’s out to get me.” This particular morning I thought, “Wait a minute, she’s not out to get me. She’s miserable.” Suddenly I saw her differently. Instead of a resistant, defiant—okay I’ll say it—brat, I saw a very upset little girl who didn’t want to separate from me. I was battling her and she was anticipating the battle. It was all she could do to get me to understand her, and I wasn’t cooperating.

    My shift in perception—she wasn’t being a problem, she was having a problem—changed our relationship. My emotions switched from anger to compassion. Once I got there, I didn’t have to fight her anymore. We never had another power struggle because I didn’t engage.

    A power struggle is a fight to the finish when you and your child are both out to win. Most parents believe they are right because, after all, they’re the parent. But consider this, if you win, your child must lose. It’s your fear that fuels your need to win. Your child shows defiance and you think you’re a terrible parent and your child will be a terrible person. However, in the moment of the defiance, you do have a choice even if you feel trapped. You can fight back or not.

    There is no power struggle if you choose not to engage. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

    Let’s start with the =&0=&:

    • Don’t try to reason with an upset child. Rational thought is impossible when the system is stressed.
    • Don’t resist resistance.
    • Don’t punish, threaten or coerce.
    • Don’t give in or try to fix it. If you feel responsible for your child’s feelings, you will try to make him happy (which is not within your power), you will inevitably lose, and then you’ll feel like a failure.
    • Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. Your child is expressing upset in the only way he knows how right now.
    • Don’t ask questions.
    • Don’t worry, jump to conclusions or catastrophize into the future.

    Here’s what you can =&10=& instead:

  • Detach. This is your child’s problem, not yours.
  • Observe and listen. Allow child’s feelings to come out until they dissipate.
  • Maintain a “holding” attitude. See the hurt she is feeling and empathize.
  • Hold her as soon as she will let you.
  • Acknowledge feelings and intention. “You really don’t want to go to school today. I bet you wish you could stay home and play with me.”
  • Give in fantasy what can’t happen in reality. “Wouldn’t it be fun if you had a magic wand. What would be the first thing you would change?”
  • Honor desires. “How do you think you could make that happen?”
  • Offer a choice. “Do you want to put your clothes on or would you like me to today?” “You don’t have a choice about going to school but you do have a choice about how you will feel about it. You can be grumpy or you can be open to what happens. It’s your choice.”
  • Be an intentional parent. Plan, anticipate, give warnings, set predictable expectations and be firm and clear with limits.
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