No More Power Struggles
I am sure many of you can agree that we are actually tired of hearing about this global pandemic: the effects, the number of cases, this and that. It is tiring and draining, but at the end of the day it is the reality we are facing and the new way of life that we need to adjust to. Now just for a moment, take all of the frustrations you are feeling and imagine feeling all of that at an age where many things in life don’t actually make sense. Imagine you are a child during this time, watching your parents get frustrated, hearing the confusing news, being told you need to change the way that things are usually done. How frustrated would you be? In this article I discuss and explore what our children are feeling and experiencing during this time, and how we can help them and ourselves.
Many parents have been talking about the random emotional outbursts that their child is suddenly having, or they are mentioning the struggles with sticking to a new routine and dealing with the pushback from kids to do their homework, do their chores, and all the usual things that need to be done. This pushback turns into endless arguments that leave parents feeling as if banging their head against a wall would be more productive and satisfying.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not always doom and gloom, there are more good days than bad days I’m sure. It’s just that those bad days end up being this power struggle between parent and child and let’s face it, that is when it gets easier to just give in, let them play more PlayStation, let them do what they want so that you as a parent can get your work done, have some quiet time, do the chores yourself- it’s all quicker and easier and less of a headache right? That’s okay. Every parent has been there, every parent has this t-shirt, burnt it, and got a new one.
However, these changes we are facing and the frustrations we are feeling, is no excuse for negative behaviour. You see, in general, children have a need for power and this is normal. So their usual tantrums and ‘hissy fits’ are normal, but now their lives are very different. That usual structure and stability that they were used to is not the same anymore. Now they have to get used to a new way of doing things so a need for power becomes stronger. Again, it is understandable given circumstances but when this need for power is used in a negative way then it becomes a problem.
Of course, no pictures capture the tantrums, but based on my face this was probably one of my cheeky nights where I enjoyed clowning around and going about on my own power mission.
As a Kids Life Coach, I coach children to understand that they live in two worlds. We explore these two worlds – one where they have all the control and one where they have no control at all. When bad things happen in the world where we have no control, then we start thinking bad thoughts, feeling bad feelings, and end up making bad choices. So for example, we are told we are not allowed to see our friends and our play area at home has now become the place to do school work. Children think this is unfair and they miss their friends, they miss their play area, they start to feel frustrated, irritated, perhaps lonely, and so they choose to push back because they don’t want to accept this change. They argue, they complain, and they perhaps ignore you on purpose. However, when children understand that this event, this change that has taken place, is part of the world in which they have no control, they need to make a choice of how to deal with it, and the choice they make is where they have all the power. So instead of fighting and pushing back, children are coached to first control their mind before they try and control the situation. They are coached to look at the situation with a different mindset and so with a positive and more productive thought, their brain releases positive chemicals which in turn leaves them feeling a bit better and not as bad. Needless to say, when we feel good inside we end up making better choices because we think clearer, we see the light at the end of the tunnel, and so the situation ends up being a positive obstacle which has now been managed. So for example, your child is told they aren’t allowed to see their friends and their play area needs to change into an area for work. They feel a bit grumpy, but then they remember their two worlds. They choose to perhaps think “well all kids are facing this at the moment, maybe I can make a new play area somewhere else in the house, and although I miss my friends I have absolutely no control so maybe I can ask mom to video call them later, but either way, I need to move on from this because being upset about it is in no way helping me”. From this whole new thought process they have allowed their brain to release positive chemicals so they don’t feel “doom and gloom” about the whole situation. They choose to rather stay in the world where they have full control, do what they need to do, and move on.
Now I know you are probably sitting there saying, “this woman is talking absolute hogwash. It is not that easy, in theory maybe but practically…come live with me for a day and try this out!”. Yes, I hear you. But reality is, this is actually doable. My clients as young as age 5 are able to guide their thoughts in order to make a situation a bit better for themselves. It is possible but it takes time. This is why I see children for a minimum of 3 months. Training our brain to think differently, practicing new habits, all takes time. There are absolutely no quick fixes in life. Note that throughout this whole process of the child managing their thoughts in order to manage the situation, the parent is not involved. This is the purpose of coaching children. My focus is on the child. The child is coached to manage this process taking the frustration away from their parents. Of course, with a parent’s assistance reminding them of the two worlds and all the techniques they have learned during the coaching, it goes better much quicker.
So parents it goes without saying that practicing patience becomes very important in these situations. When your child is experiencing the vicious cycle of negative thoughts leading to negative behaviour, don’t join them in this cycle. If they decide to push back in order to practice a sense of power over the situation, and you join in, then you have already lost the battle. Remember it takes two to argue, so if you join your child in the battle- “do your work, stop backchatting, sit down, you are not playing games now, stop that, sit and do your work”. If you join this argument then regardless of who wins, your child learns that power is what brought victory, and this was in no way a positive display of power. If your child wins, they know their power made you give in and if you win, they learn your power helped you win. Now they have learned that power is valuable and so next time they will strike back, again, and again, and again, each time trying new ways and new strategies to make you give in.
It goes without saying that the dynamic between parent and child is not a power struggle. End of story. But kids don’t know this, well not yet. Nonetheless, if you make the commitment to yourself to just say “no more arguing and that’s it” then stick to it. Be at eye level with your child, give them the instruction and when it must be done and finish off with the consequence if it does not get done. Be clear and firm and to the point, and then you walk away. Now either you are going to leave your child a bit speechless and they are just going to do what they must do, or they might see this as a dare to start a power struggle, but this is where you need to stand strong and remind yourself that there is no longer a power struggle allowed in your house. You can reassure your child that you hear their concerns, you understand their frustrations, you feel their pain, but end of the day we all still have to do the things we need to do. Rules are rules. Mommy still has to do her work even when her internet connection bombs out at the best of times. The house still needs to be cleaned even when we are so tired after a long day, and we all still need to eat so a little help around the house can make things a bit better.
It is important to note that when your child does actually do what they are asked, bring all the attention to it. Don’t just say “good job”, rather be specific. Say “you are such a helpful person. You put a lot of effort into that task, thank you”, or “you are so committed for giving it your best”. Point out the different traits and characteristics that they are using in the moment. Children are never too young to understand this. I see this every time in my coaching practice when we point out their specific traits and talents. The kids literally sit up straighter, their face lights up, and you see the pride and joy. Some of the kids get all shy and modest but that sense of power they feel in their own traits does the world for them. This is where their need for power can be used in a good, positive way. If there is any push back in sticking to their routine, doing their homework, helping with chores, remind them of the times where they practiced that positive trait of theirs. This reminds them of the good power they already have, they just need to make the choice to use it.
This is the purpose of coaching. Coaching children to understand that life happens. Sometimes it is not great, but what are you going to do about it? Are you going to use your strengths to help you move forward and make better choices, or are you going to wallow in the horrible feelings and make the entire situation and rest of the day a miserable one?
If you are interested in giving your child the different perspective in understanding how to handle the yucky parts in life, how to stick to the routine to stay productive, manage the emotions to stay positive and make good choices, then I encourage you to get in touch and find out more about the individual or sibling coaching programme, with me as their Life Coach guiding them through the process.
Kids Life Coach
Play Well Live Well Kids Life Studio®