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Avoiding Power Struggles with Kids

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Choices Aren't Threats

Dear ,

If you have a strong-willed child, you know how much some folks love control. In fact, the control needs of these kids are so strong that many are willing to perform all sorts of self-defeating-even self-destructive-behaviors just to show that they're the boss.

When we try to hoard control from these kids, we end up losing it. You've probably met parents who constantly boss their kids around. Parents who do this often feel some small sense of control in the short-term yet quickly lose it all as their kids become passive aggressive or downright rebellious.

Wiser parents give away all of the control they don't need so that they can maintain the control they do need. One way they do this is by giving lots and lots of small choices when everything is going well.

Sadly, some folks sabotage their use of choices by turning them into threats. Here are some examples:
"You're either going to pick up your toys or lose them!"

"You may either get home on time or lose your car keys!"

"Either stop arguing with each other or get out of the car!"
What turns a choice into a threat largely involves how it's said and when it's said. In Jim Fay's CD Avoiding Power-Struggles with Kids, he makes the following critical point:
Wise parents provide choices when they are calm and everything is going well.

When we do this, our choices are far more likely to remain choices-not threats.

Thanks for reading!
Dr. Charles Fay

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