One of the hardest things to do with kids is to reason with them, especially when they just do not want to listen. I have two toddlers at home and sometimes, it is hard to get them to do things the way I like. More often than not I end up frustrated and angry because things don't go the way I want and the two of them get punished. However, in all this, I have to admit that the struggle of telling my kids who-is-the-boss doesn't really serve a purpose, as firstly, the work never gets done and secondly, we are all unhappy with each other (temporarily, of course). If you are facing similar situations, read further to find out how we as parents can avoid power struggles with our children.
To begin with, let's define what a power struggle between parents and kids is. In simple words, it's when a parent's autonomy is threatened by their child who, in their own right, wants to assert his or her own will over a certain, choice or situation. This behaviour usually starts around 2 years of age, when they start developing a sense of their own persona.
The biggest concern with power struggle is engaging in an argument or forcing the child in question to do something that they do not want to do, resulting in a situation that does not benefit either party.
Unfortunately, when we try to show the kids who the boss is, we end up raising stubborn kids who refuse to comply with what the parents have to say. When a child is forced to do something they do not wish to, the focus then shifts more on being angry towards the parents rather than completing the task at hand, let alone learning a lesson.
Say your 7-year-old does not want to wear the clothes you chose for a party or s/he doesn't want to wear a jacket before leaving the house. Is it something to get into an argument for? Let your child choose what he or she wants to wear. You can explain the reason behind your insistence over the chosen outfit or the jacket, instead of forcing them to abide by what you say. Sometimes children learn more by experience than by us repeating something over and over again.
I have realised, over the years, that sometimes the best way to avoid having a meltdown with your kids is to take the middle path that is mutually agreed upon. My older one loves to talk, in fact, he loves it so much that everything else takes a back seat. So when its homework time he will bring up all sorts of stories to make sure he can avoid writing. So many a times we (my son and I) have to keep working on small arrangements so he completes his work. We agree to things such as once he completes one page of homework I would listen to whatever he has to say for the next 10 minutes and then we get back to his work. Once we both agree to this the work gets done sooner and he gets his chance of telling me stories for the day. It's a win-win for us both.
Offering choices is a way to make the kids feel in charge and it makes them happier to do thing according to what they choose. I, once read an article about how a mother would constantly get into power-struggles with her teen-aged kids about cleaning their room. While the mother insisted that her kids clean their room every day, the children didn't see a point in it. However, after much arguments, the mother gave them two choices to either clean the room every other day or make sure the room is thoroughly cleaned over the weekend. Both the kids agreed to clean the room over the weekend and then as they say they lived happily ever after.
It is necessary for kids to know that their actions have consequences. In fact, it is crucial to make them understand that they have to take responsibility for their actions. Instead of yelling or forcing your child to do chores, stay calm and issue a warning. In case your child does not comply, follow through with the punishment that is fit for the behaviour. Taking away privileges such as play time, T.V time or a simple time-out can be helpful.
Do not give multiple warnings or instructions. Your tone of voice needs to convey that they do the work or they have to face consequences, period! Leave it up to the child to do the rest. And whatever you do, make sure that you follow through with the warning or consequences they were told, because if you fail to follow through, your kids will know that you do not mean what you say and that is a position no parents want to be in.
So the next time you feel like yelling at your kids, drink a glass of water, take a deep breath and speak to them in an assertive tone. They'll know you mean business.
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