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Sidestepping Power Struggles

Henchie Weinreb

At some point, nearly every parent will engage in a power struggle with their kids. Some feel these struggles have taken over their home. If you’re perpetually locked in confrontation with your children, here’s help.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

“Get dressed right now. We’re late! And there is NO WAY you’re wearing THAT shirt. I spent a lot of time picking out your outfit, and THAT’S what you’re wearing!”

“Sit down. Stop chewing with your mouth open. You’re going to spill that drink … Please! Do NOT reach over your sister to get the ketchup! Okay, now leave the table! And DON’T come back until you figure out how to sit like a mentsch!”

At some point in their parenting career, nearly all parents will engage in a power struggle with their kids. Some parents feel they’re locked in a perpetual power struggle with one or more kids — and that these struggles have taken over their home.

While a power struggle can take place between any two people, the parent-child relationship seems magnetically inclined toward these clashes. Why? And what, if anything, can parents do to reduce their occurrence? To answer these questions, we have to first understand a few important points about parent-child power struggles.

A power struggle happens when two people are locked in a battle over who’s in power. “Power” here means having authority — physical, mental, financial — over others, and the ability to use that authority to produce an effect.

In essence, power struggles are about two people, each of whom is saying, “I am in charge here.” This struggle for domination then segues into one of many gradations and variations, such as “I am fighting with you over who’s really capable,” “I can control you,” or “I’m stronger than you.”

Let’s look at the common mind-sets in connection to a parent and a child — and how we can move past them.


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