Every parent has encountered the dreaded power struggle with their child. I bet that first sentence is recalling some fond memories for you. Power struggles are when the expectations of the parent/adult are not in line with the expectations of the child and result in conflict. Cue the tantrum.

Imagine you’ve had a fun afternoon at the park with friends. It is approaching nap time and you let your child know it’s time to go. Maybe you had the foresight to even give a 5-minute warning. Next thing you know you are chasing your child around the park as they hide in those hard-to-reach places. Catching them activates an epic meltdown and what was an enjoyable trip to the park has ended in frustration.

Power struggles are an appropriate part of child development. When a parent/adult puts an expectation in place (it’s time to leave the park, walk with me to the car) a child perceives this to be an infringement on their boundaries.

As parents and educators, we don’t have to battle our children for control! The answer to our power struggle problem …. give them more power. Confusing, right?

The following information is an excerpt from Diffusing Power Struggles with Young Children (himama.com) I highly reccomend following them on social media and listening to The Preschool Podcast .

“Stacey Band is an Educator, Parent Coach, and Founder of Home Day Hero. Stacey gives several tips on how we can be more proactive rather than reactive when these power struggles arise.

Stacey’s top takeaways for eliminating power struggles:

  • Consider their Feelings and Emotions and Offer Support– Validate their feelings and emotions while giving them choice will help curb the power struggles over all.
  • Involve Children in the Process- Children may feel that change is happening to them rather than with them. Provide options for the child to choose from- for example 2 different shirts for the child to choose from during the morning routine- either way they’ll be wearing a shirt.
  • Bridge One Activity to the Next Activity- For example, state to your child “your clothes are on, it looks like you’re ready for breakfast now. ” This allows them to see the sequence between events and better understand what may happen next and lean into the routine.
  • Use Positive Reinforcement- This will go a long way for children, the more you can say yes, the better. Save the phrase “no” for when there’s a health and safety issue present so the “no” is taken seriously by the child.
  • Offer Turn-Taking. By offering to take turns, (for example, during lunchtime if the child does not want to use their utensils, offer to take a turn using the spoon to help the child eat one bite of lunch and then invite them to use the spoon to eat one bite) it makes the child feel special that as an adult you gave them a “turn” to do something. This is super impactful for children.”

Remember to have grace with yourself if all the tools in your toolbox fail. Sometimes those big feelings just need to escape. Consistnecy, time and patience are what will help you guide your child social growth and maturity.

If the power struggles have increased since the start of the school year, you are not alone! Take a look at Back-to-School Big Feelings.