Inside: Whether parenthood feels like a constant battle or an uphill climb, we can all agree that managing our relationships with our kids is challenging and sometimes not so pretty. Teaching your children to do what feels like basic, simple tasks can sometimes turn into an all-out war. But the truth is that it does not have to be this way. Avoiding power struggles with kids by picking your battles takes practice!
Our morning power struggle
This morning my five-year-old was annoyed he couldn’t have a frozen waffle. But was it about the waffles?
Chances are, no. (we didn’t even have frozen waffles) The situation was that he needed to take his Spider-Man costume off and get ready for school.
Surprise! He didn’t want to get dressed. So getting angry about a waffle was his way of claiming some control.
- Get angry – this will not help
- Remind him of the plan – I will be at my desk when you are dressed. We have ten minutes to play when you are finished.
- Allow him some control – I asked him how I could help. This reminds him that I am here if he needs me.
With a little power back in his hands, he chose that I would read him a book once he was dressed.
I decided to trust that it was more about control than a waffle. Recognizing this helps him have a chance to gain power and move on to get dressed.
Why this is important:
Recognizing the bigger situation helps us pause and think about meeting our children where they are. (rather than arguing over a frozen waffle)
In this article, we are going to talk about:
- Picking your battles
- The impact of power struggles
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Why picking your battles will HELP build inner confidence in your kids
Learning HOW & WHY you should choose your battles wisely is an important way to keep the peace (without giving in) in your home and ultimately manage your relationships with your children healthily!
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Dealing with those Daily Battles
Being a parent can sometimes feel like a back-and-forth game of making deals with my kids about every little thing. But really, kids are looking for some sense of control and validation in their constantly changing world.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when it feels like there is a battle over:
- After school routines
- Getting dressed for the day
- Helping around the house
- Meal time
- Screen time
As a parent, it feels like a basic and necessary task to move from one routine to the next is easy.
But to your child, it feels like a giant feat they need to do but don’t want to.
This is frequently due to wanting control of what, when, and where it’s done. Kids wish to things done on their terms, just like we want things done on our terms. And here lies the power struggle.
Looking to hit restart in your day? This step-by-step guide to a daily routine with kids will get you started.
What are power struggles?
A power struggle is simply the competition for control often induced by differing desires and needs. When it comes to power struggles between parents and their kids, it can feel obvious yet complicated.
Parents are the rule makers. Children are the rule followers. Simple, right?
Not so much when you integrate the complexity of a child’s ability, or inability, to process, shift and adjust to doing something that is asked of them when they may be busy coloring, building, or playing a game.
Kids can have a tough time with change. Heck, we all do!
But when a child is engaged and involved in one activity (whether play-based or not), it is hard for them to transition out of their focus and onto the idea of doing something different.
These difficult transitions, typically evoked by us parents to help our kids, can create these power struggles.
And when a power struggle is present, it feels like it can ignite a fire. It feels like it can set up the rest of the day with constant tension that complicates everything.
Here’s what I do instead:
I take some time thinking about what can be an easy yes. I try to lean in and understand why something is important to them.
Try repeating back to what your child is asking for. You would like to sleep in your brother’s room tonight. Tell me why this is important for you.
I also like to make a plan.
I may say, I hear that sleeping in your brother’s room is important for you. Tonight is a school night, but the weekend could work. Let’s make a plan. Would you prefer Friday or Saturday night?
How to Ease the Energy
Acknowledging these power struggles with kids is key to figuring out how to manage the following difficulties.
Well, I’m here to share a little secret!
You can remove these challenging power struggles by picking and choosing your battles wisely.
It may sound too good to be true.
But when you remove the need to have your kids do something “because you said so” and based on principle, it will help to ease the overall energy in the house.
Here’s what I do instead:
Provide children with choices. Would you like to grab Legos or magnetic tiles as we head to your brother’s soccer practice? Will you add ice or lemon to your water? – Giving children choices helps them feel empowered to make decisions and gain confidence to believe in their choices when I am not around guiding them.
Establishing important boundaries throughout that day that are considered non-negotiable will help to ease routines and transitions.
For example, I don’t know about you, but it feels like my kids are constantly wanting to snack.
We try to stick to the rule of one snack between meals. But of course, my kids push this and always want more than one.
And can you blame them? They are growing, thinking, and energized machines constantly taking in the world around them. It’s exhausting! On some days, when they ask for another snack, even though lunch is a short time away, I know it’s not worth battling with them over more nourishment.
Call it giving in or whatever you wish, but avoiding a battle in this scenario feels so worth it!
Here’s what I do instead:
Apples and carrots are always available. Now, when my children are looking to snack, they know exactly what is available at all times. For us, it is apples and carrots. For you, it will be something else. Pick something that works for your family.
I have also learned that taking day trips together helps us work better together as a team. Start with a location you feel most comfortable with.
3 Ways to Involve Your Kids in Picking and Choosing Your Battles
Knowing which events throughout the day to be flexible around might sound straightforward to you, but not to your child.
Experts suggest several ways to work with your kids around the idea of picking your battles wisely:
- Give them choices: offer up some options to allow them to work around the difficulty
- Problem solve together: work together to find a mutually agreed-upon solution
- Offer up a consequence: suggest a result as a means to avoid arguing
When you communicate with your child about a difficulty that stands between you and involves them in overcoming the battle, you become a team!
Teaching your kids how to conquer tricky moments like this together is an important life skill. Here are three powerful alternatives to saying, good job.
Whether throwing your arms up in the air to avoid the power struggle or working through it with your kids, the overall message remains: avoiding power struggles with kids will remove unnecessary difficulties.
When we can steer clear of power struggles, it can help everyone’s mood, energy, and productivity for the rest of the day!
And really, what’s better than a happy, peaceful household?
RELATED: Parenting is a hard job. Here are nine things I focus on when feeling overwhelmed.
Fewer power struggles help build inner confidence in kids!
Understandably so, power struggles with kids can cause hostility within the home and between parents and their children. When we minimize this type of hostility and replace it with positive and productive communication, it can EMPOWER our kids!
When we are in the footsteps of a power struggle and instead welcome the opportunity for healthy communication and allow our kids to process the difficulty into an opportunity for progress….this builds inner confidence and strengthens their problem-solving ability.
Turning what could be a negative, hostile situation into a positive one that may offer playfulness and empowerment is such an important skill to teach our kids!
Giving kids the chance to work through their difficulties in transition or change allows them to learn how to verbalize and showcase their personal preferences. When we can help to teach our kids how to communicate their likes and dislikes in productive ways, it’s the ultimate WIN-WIN!
When we pick and choose our battles, we can avoid unnecessary difficulties. Setting the tone for the rest of the day is often based on how we decide what is worth arguing over with our kids. Ask yourself, does this REALLY matter? If so, stand your ground. If not, work through it as a team or dismiss it together to keep the peace and move on positively.
The struggle is real when you and your child don’t see eye to eye or have different ideas at hand. Very real! And when you cannot overcome one power struggle, it can change the mood and relationship for the rest of the day. Here is how we begin our day to connect quickly before the chaos.
Easy! Take away the unnecessary “rules.” Sometimes as parents, we set rules in the home to help facilitate order and routine. But let’s be real, not all of these rules are necessary, but are merely a way for us to stand our ground and be the parent. If you can let go of some of these rules and instead develop a mindset of healthy boundaries, you may feel yourself lighten up a bit which may support a playful side of you too!