Relinquishing the temptation to control the situation is easier said than done. We have certain goals as parents, and they naturally want to do the opposite whenever they can figure out how. How do we avoid power struggles while still getting our way? The answer lies in setting up choices.
Things that may lead to a power struggle
Power struggles can easily happen if you don’t set out with a plan. Here are a few ways it can create a situation that hurts us in the long-term.
Forcing the upper-hand: If you demand them to do something, they will probably naturally rebel. It’s human nature to try to gain control over any situation. There’s always going to be a loser, and that person will probably end up resentful and demoralized. The losing party will want to regain control again. That means they will now be motivated to do the opposite of what you just told them. You will have achieved a short-term gain in exchange for a long-term battle.
Telling them…Because I told you so: You want to avoid situations where you are forcing them to do something without giving an actual reason. They won’t understand why they’re doing it which can make it really frustrating, and also leaves them out of any reason to continue doing it once the pressure is off.
Changing the rules erratically: Exchanges that lead into power struggles can lead to miscommunication, frustration and misbehavior. As parents, we know our children won’t always do what we tell them to. It is important in these moments of parental frustration to not change the rules unexpectedly to gain control, such as telling them that the toy they earned is no longer theirs. If they can’t trust how the rules work, they will be less motivated to try to follow them.
Use structure to create choices
Give them a few choices that you can live with: Set reasonable limitations and think of ways to incentivize decision making. Have a few options that may let them have their way but hold them accountable with an inconvenience or gentle consequence. Other choices may be connected to a tangible reward or accompanied by your positive praise.
Be clear with the rules and expectations: Let them know exactly how to succeed, and what to expect. Be steady with how you maintain and execute. You want them to trust the system and be able to work steadily towards progress.
Educate them: Communicate clearly and often why the rules exist. Go on the internet and do your research. Give them as many reasons as you can can. If we understand why something benefits us, it can help us to keep it prioritized as a regular part of our life.
Making choices is a part growing up
We want our children to learn how to make decisions because they think it’s the right thing to do. What better way to do that but with your guidance. You are the most important thing in their universe for many years. They look up to you and want you to lead their way. Create structure within your household that helps positively prod them in the right direction. Create options that give them valuable first-hand experience in how to determine how to make decisions. Educate them about how to keep themselves happy and healthy, about their relationships to others and the world around them.
Be consistent, mindful and patient and hopefully they can see the rules as a way you help them learn to navigate the world around them.
Originally published at medium.com