Power struggles
May 13, 2013
by Jenni Sebora

It takes two to tango (and tangle), and that includes power struggles with our children, especially our ‘tweens and teens. Don’t pick up the rope, and it won’t be a struggle. That is good advice.

How we react as adults to our children’s behavior is vital to the outcome. It should not be about blaming or winning. If you pick up the rope, raise your voice, and respond with emotion, the battle has begun, and there is nothing positive gained.

I just attended a conference on effective interventions for behavioral and social challenges.

A question was posed. Can we, adults, outsmart the situation?

We need to use our intellect, not our emotions. We are the adults. Much of parenting is tolerance. Can we tolerate our own discomfort long enough to think about what to do or not do?

We need to handle our own feelings appropriately, so we react appropriately and not get caught in the struggle.

We are not going through the hormonal changes that puberty brings on. Our critical thinking skills are, or should be, developed, which is not the case for our children. These skills start to develop during puberty.

Our children are continuously going through developmental stages. In fact, some of their behavior should be expected as they grow physically, emotionally, and socially.

It is our job to guide our children through childhood to lead successful and happy lives. Helping our children navigate through these changes is our job, and are important life skills.

How can we help our children navigate through situations, rather than be a part of a negative power struggle?

How we react can make a big difference. Remaining calm is crucial. Never deflate their self-esteem with mean words that we will only regret saying. We should remain kind, calm, and firm. Actively listen. Don’t overtalk. Sometimes, just a few words or silence can send the appropriate signal.

Sometimes, when our emotions are greatly heightened and we feel that we might lose it with our children, we need to take a time-out.

I was tired last night, after working at my job, and doing laundry, making dinner, and chauffeuring my children as many parents do. Thus, my patience was hindered. My daughter was also feeling crabby and tense. It was time to, figuratively and literally, put on my crabby robe, and that is what I did. I told my kids this, so they knew. I did not want to pick up the end of the rope. I used my coping strategy of tolerance, but my tolerance was limited, so the robe was put on.

Sometimes, we must know that conflicts or situations are not going to be resolved in the moment or day. It may take some time.

“I may not have a solution today, but I will be calm.” These are words to remember.

Actively listening to our children allows them to know that their feelings are validated. We may not agree with their actions, but we are validating their feelings. We are validating them as people who have the right to be heard.

I know family meetings sound like something not feasible, but they can be vital. Knowing where your family stands on certain issues and values is important. It is important that our children know our expectations and what the consequences of certain actions are. Have family meetings to set up and review family expectations. Maybe children can help come up with the solutions. Ownership helps with one’s investment in the solution.

Negotiating. Active listening. Working through conflict. Problem-solving. Cooperating. These are all crucial life lessons that we need to model and help guide our children through. This is called direct instruction in life lessons.

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