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Avoid Power Struggles and Arguments with Your Child

Today, I’m sharing with you my learnings on how can you avoid arguing with your child effectively? The most successful approach, I’ve used or trying to use is to abstain from participating in arguments from the very beginning.

When you consistently engage in arguments with your child, it can lead them to perceive themselves as equals and feel empowered to challenge your authority. The more they believe in their own power and realize that arguing yields results, the more likely they are to resort to arguing as a means of resolving their issues.

It is crucial to address this behaviour in your children, and one of the most effective strategies is recognizing that you cannot emerge victorious in an argument with your child by engaging in the argument itself. Your defeat occurs as soon as you allow yourself to be drawn into the argument initially.

I’ve learned this the hard way, especially when you deal with a set of twin boys. Is always a power game between me and them and each other. I’m sure is nothing new as you already know as a parent. Avoiding arguments and power struggles is the ultimate game changer when comes to “shaping” your kids behaviour.

Why Would We Lose The Power Struggle Right From The Beginning

More I read about parenting more I understand that any child likes to argue because they want to convince others that their ideas are right, even if it means saying everyone else is wrong. They enjoy feeling in control and having power, especially over their parents.

This need for power is normal in children. They see adults as powerful because we seem to do whatever we want and look confident and grown-up. Children want to be like us and have some power too.

Tell me this is not what you’ve thought when you are younger? And I believe this is more accentuated once we are getting to be teenagers. A good tip is to always remember that we’ve been kids also. This brings my calmness and patience goals back in front of me.

Wanting power isn’t bad by itself. It only becomes a problem when kids use their power in a negative way, like not doing what they’re asked, resisting authority, and trying to make the rules themselves.

Dr. Karen Van Nuys, a child psychology expert, explains, “Children wanting power is a normal part of growing up. It shows they are learning to be more independent and find their own identity.” So, even though it can be challenging for parents, it’s a normal part of a child’s development.

So, why we can’t win the power struggles? It is relatively simple to explain it. Here is my understanding.

Me as many other parents, we are trying to control a child who wants to be in charge, but this usually doesn’t work well. When you try to control a power-hungry child, it often leads to a situation where neither you nor your child can win. Once you get into this kind of power struggle, it’s hard to come out on top.

If your child ends up winning this power battle, they feel like their power was what made them win, and you were defeated by it. On the other hand, if you win the power struggle, your child might think that it was your power that made you win, and it defeated them. This can make children want to fight back even harder, using stronger methods each time. So, you might win some small battles, but you end up losing the bigger war.

Every child shows their desire for power differently. Some kids argue and fight to show they’re in charge, while others use a quieter approach. They might not argue but refuse to do what you ask. They might nod and smile, knowing that this kind of power gets under your skin.

How To Handle “The Power”

Can we end the power struggles? Yes, I’ve put an end to them by not getting into power struggles in first place. These conflicts require the participation of both parties, and the same goes for arguments.

I perfectly know is a major consumer of will, but you need to make a strong commitment to yourself to no longer engage in lengthy arguments and explanations. Clearly and firmly state your expectations to your child, then walk away.

Keep it short, firm and in a warm tone. Tell them exactly what you want them to do, when they need to do it, and what will happen if they don’t comply. Afterward, just step away from the situation (if is a genuine question to it, make sure you answer it in the same manner, don’t just walk away).

Probably the best example, is the before bed routine, which will go something like this:

“Boys, it’s time to turn off the TV.”

“Nooo, we want to watch the next episode of our monster trucks.”

“Sorry, it’s time to get ready for bed.”

“Can’t we stay up for one more episode?”

“Not tonight. We have to get up early.”

“Watch another 2 minutes and then turn off the TV. Wash your face, brush your teeth and go to bed. If you don’t do it you will lose TV for tomorrow night.”

Don’t get caught up in a back-and-forth argument. If necessary, step out of the room or even house. Don’t let your child provoke you. Responding with anger will only give them the power they’re seeking over you.

In dealing with power struggles, you may need to use consequences. Clearly instruct your child on what to do and be prepared with a consequence if they don’t cooperate.

When using consequences, remember two important things: don’t deliver them in anger as it can escalate the power struggle, and smaller consequences are often more effective than larger ones. If your child feels the punishment is too harsh, they may respond with more defiance.

When your child does what you’ve asked without argument, express your appreciation. Acknowledge it by saying, “Thank you. You did what I asked without an argument. I appreciate that. It shows you are cooperating.”

As a long-term solution, remember that a child’s need for power can be a positive thing. Look for signs of independence, self-reliance, leadership, and decision-making in your child, and highlight these qualities. When your child displays these positive behaviors, recognize and praise them.

As Dr. Jane Nelsen, an expert in positive discipline, suggests, “Emphasizing the positives in your child’s behaviour can be a powerful way to reduce power struggles and encourage cooperation.” This approach is often more effective than focusing solely on negative behaviours.

Authority Or Power?

While I was doing some readings on this topic, I’ve found this principle mentioned over and over. And it sounds like this: The distinction between power and authority resides within you as a parent.

When you find yourself needing to address issues with your children, prioritize constructive cooperation over trying to control them. Maintain a composed and rational demeaner, regardless of the circumstances. Be vigilant in protecting yourself from reacting with anger. Take a moment to pause and think before responding impulsively.

This example has been picked up from one of my readings and shows the difference between being in control and forcing the control:

Here is an example of a parent using power:

“Why can’t I go?”
“Because I said so. I’m your father.”
“What has that got to do with it?”
“Well, I’m going anyway.”
(Dad gets angry.) “I’m warning you. If you go to that party, you are going to be in big trouble.”
“Oh sure. What are you going to do?”
“You just wait and see.”

arguments banner showing a mother speaking calmy with her daughter

Here is an example of a parent using authority:

“Why can’t I go?”
“I don’t think it is going to be safe.”
“I can handle it.”
“There is going to be a lot of drinking at that party. Probably drugs, too. I don’t want you there.”
“I’ll be okay. You don’t have to worry.”
“You don’t understand. I trust you. That’s not the problem. I don’t trust some of those other kids. You can’t control what they will do.”
“Everyone else is going.”
“I know you want to go very much. I know you’ll be disappointed.”
“I want to go.”
“Sorry. You can’t go. You can do something else. Have some kids over here.”

Bring Change Without Arguments Or Power Struggles

Correcting your kids when they misbehave can be tricky. And believe me I know, as I’m not the calmest person in the world and my natural way of being, is that I’m quite impulsive and “volcanic”. When I get upset and start arguing with them, it doesn’t help. I know.

So, please try keeping your composure and calm. Yelling, scolding, or making threats will make things worse, not better. Maybe it will help you release your frustration, but in long run this type of reaction will create a gap between you and your little one(s).

Here’s a simpler way to handle it:

  • Stay calm, and tell your kids to stop.
  • Be ready to give them a consequence if needed.
  • Don’t get stuck in a yelling and arguing cycle. You don’t want to spend all your time that way.
  • Yelling gives your kids what they want if they’re trying to push your buttons. It makes their bad behavior stronger.

So, how can you correct your kids without arguing? Use words to help them make better choices. Here are some tips:

  1. Start by telling your kids you love them, no matter what.
  2. Say why their behavior was not okay, like, “You embarrassed me at the store.”
  3. Remind them of times when they behaved well, to encourage them.
  4. Make it clear that it’s their behavior that’s a problem, not them as a person.
  5. Choose a consequence that fits the issue. For example, if they misbehave while shopping, they can’t go shopping with you for a while.
  6. Don’t ask why they did it; they made a choice. Asking why can lead to excuses and arguments.
  7. Wait until they calm down to talk about it. Upset kids don’t listen well.
  8. Teach them how to do better next time. Show them the right way.
  9. Admit when you make mistakes. It’s okay to not be perfect.
  10. Don’t dwell on small mistakes. Fix them and move on.

These ideas also work when your kids argue with each other. Stay calm, avoid threats, and help them find solutions. Yelling and threatening might work for a short time, but they don’t make things better in the long run.

Some good reads are from the child psychologist Dr. Jane Nelsen. She always says: “Using positive ways to discipline your kids can make your relationship better and lead to more cooperative and responsible children.”

A side note here is important and is related to “getting even” behaviour. And this happens quite a lot between my boys and sometimes between one of them and me.

When a child feels upset or angry, they might have the urge to seek revenge – “getting even” in their own eyes. This desire for retaliation stems from their need to balance the scales and ease their hurt and anger. Seeking revenge gives children a sense of justice and fairness.

However, seeking revenge can harm the relationship between parents and children, especially during the teenage years. Some children may embarrass their parents in front of others, target something precious to them, harm a younger sibling, or even engage in destructive behaviours like running away or damaging valuable items. In my case, is usually knocking the others toy or by pretending to hit my arm.

The cycle of revenge often starts when a child believes they’ve been unfairly punished by their parent. In response, they decide to even the score by misbehaving again, deliberately trying to provoke their parent’s anger. This leads to further punishment, and the cycle of retaliation continues.

Retaliation. End The Cycle

What I’ve learned from different readings is that when your child seeks revenge, their target is your feelings. They want to hurt you, and if they succeed, they consider it a victory. Some parents may doubt their parenting abilities, and clever children can pick up on this insecurity, taking advantage of their parent’s vulnerability.

Tell me that you haven’t questioned your parenting ability at least once in the last month? I did and probably I still will do that even I’m trying to improve my skills and mindset on how to deal with my young ones, especially around discipline, arguments and will.

Revenge-seeking children know precisely where to strike to cause the most pain. They might say hurtful things like, “I hate you. You’re a terrible parent.” These remarks are meant to make you feel hurt and believe that you’re failing as a parent. They aim to make you feel inadequate and guilty.

Feeling inadequate or guilty can make you second-guess your decisions and become inconsistent in your parenting. This inconsistency is precisely what a revenge-seeking child hopes to achieve – it’s their desired outcome.

To avoid falling victim to your child’s revenge, have confidence in your parenting abilities and support yourself. When your child tries to push your emotional buttons, stay strong and remind yourself that you are a good parent who is doing their best.

When disciplining your children, maintain a positive approach. Avoid criticizing and ensure that punishments are fair and make sense to your child. Punishments should not embarrass or humiliate your child but should instead guide them toward making better choices. Avoid using punishment as a way to “get back” at your child for hurting your feelings or making you angry.

Keep control over your emotions and don’t let your child manipulate your feelings. Have faith in your judgment, and resist giving in to arguments like, “Other parents let their kids watch R-rated movies.” Don’t reward your child’s revenge-seeking behaviour. The more confidence you have in your parenting, the easier it will be to gain your child’s cooperation.

Many parents tend to judge their worth as parents based on their children’s behavior, thinking, “If I’m a good parent, why are my kids misbehaving?” This mindset makes you vulnerable to your children’s actions as they look for ways to provoke you.

Instead, focus on your strengths rather than insecurities. The more you recognize your strengths, the more confident you’ll become. Being a good parent doesn’t always mean being your child’s best friend.

There will be times when your children are upset with you, but it’s essential to stick to your principles and not criticize yourself. In the long run, your commitment to them and your supportive approach will be what they remember most, not minor disagreements.

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