The infamous balance of power between a parent and a child — it is intense, it is exhausting, it is physically and emotionally draining. But, it doesn’t have to be. It shouldn’t be.
When we have toddlers, everyday can seem like a power struggle. I have power struggles with my almost six-year old and even with my very mobile fourteen-month old. However, it is my three-year old who is who is always ready for battle; always prepped and ready for our duel. But why? Is it his age or the fact that he is a boy? Maybe it has to do with being the middle child? Or maybe, just maybe, it is because of me.
Now, don’t feel bad for me and think that I am getting all down on myself — I am not. But, I do think that I am partly (even mostly) at fault for the power struggles that take place within my home almost daily.
I am the adult. I repeat, I am the adult. Honestly, I should probably be repeating this to myself multiple times a day. And “balance of power” — there shouldn’t be a need for this. There shouldn’t be rivalries. Instead, as a family, we should be present and behave as a community of power. When there is a balance of power, there is gradual tipping in one direction or another when the balance is altered ever so slightly. This negates the whole idea of “balance”. But, with a community of power, we are steady, strong and act as a harmonious unit.
Yes, I know that this is kind of a pipe dream — nothing about a busy family five is “harmonious”. However, if I work as a team with my children, I will be able to recognize and address the root of our struggles, which likely will be some version of an unmet need. This requires me to set aside my pride and the notion that I am so “on top of it” that there is no way one of my children could have a need unmet or unaddressed.
The fact is that I am not always meeting their needs. With three of them, it is hard to devote enough equal attention to each. And honestly, there is not always enough time to figure out what need is not being satisfied and how to appropriately satisfy it in a way that pleases the satisfiee, but I have to find a way to slow it down. If I don’t, power struggles will continue to ensue.
Ultimately, we win a power struggle with our children, when we give up. Thats right…I am telling you to give up…so that you can win. Of course winning shouldn’t be your goal, but our pride and desire for control often tends to direct our parenting. So here’s your chance. You get to act like an adult and you get to “win,” by merely surrendering to your child.
By no means am I telling you to let your child get away with bad behavior and to not give consequences for tantrums. What I am saying is that you need to disengage, mentally and physically, from unproductive verbal battles with your child. Additionally, we need to try to remind ourselves that the daily challenges we face with our children are beneficial, as they serve to develop our strength and their strength.
Most of the time, our children’s desire for control drives us up a wall. They will fight us to the depths for that control. Funny thing is, so will we. So where do you think they picked it up? The good thing is that a mutual motivation for control shows that both parties have passion and thankfully, passion means that we have energy. All we need to do to turn our power struggles into something more positive is to take the energy we use to fight for control and harness it into something different; something that that excites us and them. Focus on increasing your child’s enjoyment, rather than resolving their behavior, as the first will take care of the latter on its own.
According to L.R. Knost, best-selling and award-winning author and independent child development researcher, effective parenting means that we have to “teach our children to control themselves” as it “is far more effective than trying to control our children”. I, personally, am working on following her tips to:
— Model; don’t manipulate
— Lead; don’t intimidate
— Support; don’t shame
— Encourage; don’t threaten
— Guide; don’t punish
— Listen; don’t lecture.
I am not naive though. I know that my relinquishment of control is a lofty goal. I also know that is somewhat unrealistic of me to think that if I give up control, it will lead to my children desiring less control. But, at least I am willing to try. So much of good parenting is just about showing up and trying and that, I can and always will do.
Within all of us, we have the capability to rise above any unproductive situation. Are you going to acknowledge and act on you capability? I am going to try and tomorrow seems like a great day to start. Are you with me?