Overcoming Power Struggles

An argument takes two people, with just one person, it is a temper tantrum.

By Eileen Bailey

They are bound to happen, the power struggle between parent and child. Parents believe they have the upper hand, they are the one in control but sometimes a child will test those boundaries and then the power struggle begins.

It might be early morning in your house, and your child is not getting dressed for school.  The more you fuss about it, the more defiant he becomes. He is throwing tantrums, refusing to wear the clothes you laid out, playing video games or watching television, or playing with toys, anything but doing what he is supposed to be doing. With each moment your anger builds until it becomes imperative that you have your child do what you say.  You need to know you are in control and begin to demand, argumentatively that he get dressed “this very instant.”  He becomes more defiant.  And so the struggle goes.  As your power struggle escalates, both of you begin to feel desperation and your reactions show your despair.

Soon, power struggles move on to chores, homework, playing nicely, just about everything. Your relationship with your child becomes strained. You feel tired and drained and their poor behavior reaches levels you didn’t think were possible. Power struggles create frustration, anger and resentment for the parent and the child.  Resentment can cause a further breakdown of communication until it seems as if all you do is argue with your child.

Prepare Beforehand for Power Struggles Parents must be the one that stops the cycle of power struggles. Parents are the ones that are in control, are the adult and must take charge in a positive way.  It is the simplest step that will begin a new cycle. But this step, no matter how simple, is the most difficult. Parents must stop arguing. They must stop feeding into the struggle and the arguments. However simple this sounds, it takes discipline and effort to change the pattern of behavior.

Preparation and creating a plan of action are the keys to regaining control of your household. At night, after your child is in bed, sit down and make a list of the times that you most often argue. Some examples might be:

Ask a Question

Get answers from our experts and community members.

View all questions (2210) >