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.