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How To Deal With Power Struggles

How To Deal With Power Struggles

When you were expecting your first child you may have imagined what type of parent you would be, how you would handle discipline, how you would celebrate birthdays, Christmas, etc. 

We never imagined all the power struggles we as parents have to deal with on a daily basis! and after a few years have passed, you may have wondered why you may have drifted so far from that type of parent you imagined?

All of us reflect on this a time or two during our parenting journey. You may feel guilty about the parent you have become because it isn’t even close to the type of parent you imagined or hoped you would be. 

So, why do you feel like you have drifted so far? 

As we learn how to better ourselves as parents by relinquishing some control we soon realize that by giving more we get more in return. Sound too good to be true?

In This Article

Let’s look at 4 ways that we can deal with power struggles as we set limits and learn how to give the right dose of control to our children.

How To Deal With Power Struggles

1. Understand Where The Frustration Is Coming From

The first thing that needs to be understood is whose needs are being frustrated. And where is it coming from? Is it you or your child? 

When our relationship with our children becomes a constant struggle, parenting is no longer enjoyable. It turns into harsh negative feelings towards one another that may eventually lead to resentment. 

It is not like we can break up with our child and say goodbye to all the fighting, arguing and constant need for control. Raising children shouldn’t be so difficult all the time.

Often parents are looking for ways to reconnect with their children as they strive to be the parents they once envisioned. 

Your relationship with your child should not be about who is in control. It should be about connecting with one another emotionally and having a genuine desire to bond with and enjoy one another. It’s not about giving your child demands, to get your child to do your will or threats about what will happen if they don’t follow through on those demands. 

Parenting is about setting limits and giving children control over the choices they make within those limits. 

Often it is our expectations not being met that makes us frustrated and maybe even a little angry. It is our job as parents to try to understand our child’s emotional needs as well as their temperaments and be able to meet those needs. 

When you find yourself in the middle of a power struggle. Give these three things a try.

  • Take a break: It takes two to argue. If you remove yourself from the situation your child ends up only arguing with themselves. When both parents are emotional and are in the heat of the moment, logic is often thrown out the window. Take a break until both parties have calmed down and can think more clearly. 
  • Look at the situation objectively- By looking at the situation as a whole and as objectively as possible you are able to see who is trying to control whom. Look at why each party is mad, assess yourself as a parent to see if you may be trying to control something that simply doesn’t need your control and try to understand what your child is trying to accomplish. 
  • Once both parties are calm openly discuss the situation- Now that emotions have had a chance to cool off. You can now discuss the situation with more logic and hopefully more understanding of your child’s point of view and goal.

When you are able to understand where each party’s frustration is coming from. You will be able to see whose needs are not being met and how to find the middle ground that can be workable for you, and your child.

2. Apply The “V” Of Love Parenting System 

This system was created by a Psychologist by the name of Silva B. Rimm. She calls it the “V” of love. She says, “ people of all ages compare the amount of control they have in a relationship to only the amount of control they used to have-not the amount they feel they should have. 

Basically it comes down to this; when we are given more control over time we are satisfied. When we find that our control has been cut back we may become angry and frustrated. 

So what is the right amount of control that we should allow our children to have? Is there such a thing as too much control? 

Well yes, to much control you are allowing your child to run the house and you! When I am talking about giving away control in order to gain more back. I am not talking about giving all of your control away. Children don’t get to rule us or the household.

Children whose parents have treated them like miniature adults with all the privileges, choices and control granted at birth soon become entitled, control driven children. These children hold their parents, hostage, with temper tantrums, back-talking, arrangements, and pouting. 

Children who grow up with all the control and power from the beginning end up living very unhappy and unfulfilled lives.  However, when parents tighten down too much on control, limits, and restrictions, the results are angry and rebellious children since their rights and privileges and needed experiences have been withheld. 

Children should have freedom over their choices within LIMITS.  So, what does this look like?

power struggles

The sides of the “V” represent the firm limits we set as parents or in other terms the Boundaries we set. Within our limits/boundaries children have the freedom to make decisions and live with the consequences within those limits.

At the bottom of the “V” represents birth and the top of the “V” represents adulthood such as the time your child leaves home. With this method of the “V” of love, we are offering more freedom as our children age and become adults. 

We will limit the number of power struggles we have each day by giving more freedom to our children as they grow. 

Unfortunately, many parents do what is called the Inverted “V” which is the opposite of the “V” of love. When children are young they grant their children a lot of freedom and privileges, but as they grow older they take away their children’s control. And are left with the result of unhappy and resentful children. 

So how do you start to apply the “V” of love in your parenting today? 

By giving away control in certain areas of your child’s life. If you have youngsters you give them control over what snacks they can have. You could say something along the lines of “would you like crackers or an apple?” Or at the dinner table “would you like more food or have you had enough?”.

Therefore toddlers are able to feel in control of their choices they make and parents find that this limits the number of power struggles they deal with on a daily basis. 

The key is to offer two options that you are okay with – no matter what choice they pick. As your children grow older let them govern more and more of their choices in like manner. For example, If you have older children, you can give them control over an increasing portion of their allowance.

If they get their allowance on Saturday and they spend it all by Monday, you will need to allow them to reap the natural consequences of doing so. This could mean for example, that they may have to do some work around the house, ask neighbors for work, or wait until the next payday. 

As children are in their late teen years. They should have control and make decisions on nearly every aspect of their lives. 

Remember, that as children grow older they gain more control over their lives.

3. Listen, Be Empathic, and respond

The biggest thing we need to do more as parents is to slow down. Life often runs a thousand miles per hour all day and every day. When kids are caught in the mix in our busy schedules they become overwhelmed and may start to experience a soul fever which is what the authors of Simplicity Parenting call it. 

A soul fever is when our children are feeling overwhelmed with the stresses of their lives. They shut down, they may lash out, or misbehave more often than normal. One of the greatest gifts that we have been given as parents is our instincts, but we can only tune in to them effectively when we are able to slow down.

We can tell that something is off with our child. When we ask them “are you okay?” they may shrug off our question and answer back “I’m fine” even though we know that something is going on. What they may be experiencing is a soul fever.  

When our kids physically get sick, we often adjust our schedules from our daily activities to be more nurturing and caretaking.  We give our children drinks, food, snuggles, movies and a lot of personal time. But, when our children are experiencing a soul fever, do we take the time to even notice or help?

What may seem like a “phase” could be that your child is having a hard time mentally and emotionally keep up with the demands of the world. 

Controlling their emotions and feelings tells them that what they are experiencing is wrong and invalid. Also, it doesn’t allow them to learn how to cope with such feelings and emotions. 

So how do we help as parents?

We must:

  • Listen
  • Be empathetic 
  • And respond

If you ask your child what the matter is and they shrug off your question and give no reply or just a simple “I’m okay” don’t just drop the conversation there. Instead, let your child know that you are willing and open to talk when they are ready. 

This will open the door for them to walk through. When they are ready they will come to talk with you if they feel safe and know that you will take the time to listen to what they have to say. 

In some cases, your child won’t come and talk with you even after you have left the door open for them. If this is the case, address your child in a calm manner and let them know what you have been observing. 

You could say something along the lines of “ I have been noticing that you have been pretty distant from me and your friends lately. What seems to be going on?” 

Show empathy to your child. Express to your child that you are concerned, that you love them and genuinely want to help them out. They will be much more open and willing to discuss things with you.

The next step is to respond. Each child will communicate their emotional, mental and physical needs in their own unique way. One child may be easy to connect with, but you may find yourself at wit’s end with a different child. You may each speak different emotional languages. 

That doesn’t mean your child is wrong, bad or that their needs are invalid. They just require you to respond in a way that is different than you are used to. 

If your child is really struggling with a soul fever. Give them a break from their day to day schedules for a day or two. Children need to reset just like adults do. Those few days of not following their busy schedules will help ground them again and they will be ready to hop back into the fast lane once again.

4. Setting limits 

Remember the “V” of love that we talk about earlier on? We are coming back to it for a second. If you looked closely enough you would see that the lines form the “V” the word limits is written. 

From birth, parents should be in control of a lot of their baby’s schedules, feedings, naps, etc. but as our children get older we need to let out some more rope. I like to think of it

as each person is hanging onto opposite ends of a rope. Mom and dad on one end and their child on the other. The rope represents the limits we set and as our children grow older we let out more rope so they can go farther and have more freedom to move around but they still have a hold on the rope.

Within the limits we set, our children get to have the freedom to make their own choices and suffer good or the bad natural consequences of those choices.

If you are not sure or clear on what your limits/boundaries are. Make a list! This way those limits become clear to you and to your children. 

Setting limits reduces the number of arrangements, control battles, and back talks, and power struggles since our children’s need for control and taking control over their choices is in their hands. 

Signs That You May Be Controlling More Than You Should:

1. Micromanaging their eating, appearance, hobbies, or social life
2. Giving affection as a reward but withdrawing it as punishment
3. Criticizing your children far more than you praise them
4. Violating your children’s privacy
5. Overriding, discounting or ridiculing your children’s strong emotions
6. Forbidding your children from asking questions or disagreeing with you
7. Being unwilling to admit your mistakes in parenting
8. Believing that you own your children and that they have to earn your love
9. Seeing your children’s desires for independence and autonomy as a personal rejection
10. Controlling how your children are allowed to feel 

Check out “Signs Of Overcontrol” to see what control may look like in your adult life. 

If you feel like you are constantly arguing, fighting, threatening your children every day. You are not alone! So many parents follow the Inverted “V” method of parenting. For some reason, it is so natural to feel the need to control more of our children’s lives as they age. 

As parents, we have gone through a lot more than our children have. It is natural to want to protect them from making mistakes and experiencing failures. We hate seeing our children hurt and so we want to protect them from ever being hurt in their life! 

But children who grow up not getting the opportunity to make choices and experience the natural consequences of their actions grow up to be very entitled, emotionally insecure, and unstable adults not knowing how to function in this fast-moving world. 

Start adding joy and happiness back into your parenting by letting go of some control over your children’s lives. Reconnect, bond and laugh together more often again!