The two most feared words in a parent’s vocabulary, next to “assembly required” are “POWER STRUGGLE”. Kids are in it to win it, aren’t they? They are all in when it comes to fighting for their way. Power struggles are exhausting for the parent, exhilarating to the child. Power struggles, the parent-child tug of war, where someone (most likely mom or dad) end up with rope burn.

When we  understand why power struggles occur we are better able to avoid even picking up that heavy braided twine.

So why?

  • Just ‘cuz. Just ‘cuz that is how we are all wired. One of our most basic needs is the need for freedom and independence. We need opportunities to make decisions for ourselves. Of course as parents  we know our end goal is to work our mom (or dad)-selves out of a job. We want our kids to be able to manage life on their own. So…we need to provide appropriate times for our kids to make some good (and some bad) decisions under the safety of our roof. When our kiddos declare, “You treat me like a baby” or “I am 16 you know…” those are little hints for us to loosen our parent control a bit (maybe not as much as our kids may want but probably a little bit more than we would like).
  • Wants. Like all people, kids want their way. Sometimes that’s okay, other times it is not in their or another’s best interest. Once they view mom or dad as an obstacle to what they want–the boxing gloves go on. Personally I don’t want to enter the ring. The best way to avoid being the opponent is to be on the same side of the ropes. How can one avoid jumping into the fight but still say no? By agreeably opposing,“I would love to say yes to getting you that toy. When we get home let’s create a Wish List for your birthday.” Or even better, “Let’s put our heads together and we can figure out some ways for you to earn money to buy it yourself.”
  • Reason. Some kids actually have a reason for putting up a fuss. Consider this: The child who builds 3/4 ths of his vision for his Lego City and then he has to put it away before leaving the house. Or the pre-pubescent girl who doesn’t want to wear the jeans her mom laid out but wants to wear the sweats with elastic waste-band instead. Recognizing the uniqueness of our child will prevent a few melt downs. Work with the child who wants to see his creation to fruition. Give your developing kid the ability to make some clothing choices (within reason).
  • We ignite the fuse. Yep. Sometimes it is our fault. When acting in an abrupt manner, like flipping off the TV or declaring, “It’s time to leave” without a warning. When we exasperate our children with impossible expectations (rather than challenging or high expectations) we can expect a POWER SURGE.

The way to reduce those ol’ power struggles is to control the things we can such as our words, our emotions, and the general tone of the home. By doing these things while we recognize we are raising kids to  be responsible adults then we are ready to provide opportunities for them to have some freedoms. If bad choices are made, it’s OK. Learning will take place…all in sanctuary of our homes.

Fathers do not exasperate your children.
Ephesians 6:4

Please share ways you have discovered to stop the power struggle  tug of war.
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© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13Parenting.com. She has written 5 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home. and her most recent book The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family ConnectionsContact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.