Can you picture a tug of war – is that what it is like in your family? A show of strength, between family members, pulling each other maybe not physically but with heated words, treats or bribes? Would you like to see an end to the tug of war of strength and power?
First of all we have to resign to the fact that we can’t really control anyone else, other than ourselves. This is particularly obvious when it comes to parenting. We discover this at various stages in parenting like with a crying baby that will not sleep or when our beautiful babies start to walk and talk! They start to say “no” and exert their own will. What do you mean by saying ‘no’ to getting in the car?
When I experienced this I ramped up my own strength and resolve to control my kids with tricks, bribes, distraction or whatever it took to continue to match their growing power. I found this was really only creating a power struggle and really seeking more control over all circumstances. Let’s face it no-one loves a power struggle. We don’t like an angry boss yelling at us to get things done his way or the highway, or a teacher demanding we wear the school tie the just the right length nor a barking mum who sends out commands for obedience and compliance.
I discovered it was better to share control by giving small choices… rather than wait for my kids to fight for it over big issues.
How did I do this? We thought of lots of ways to share control, which really didn’t matter or affect our home. For example, asking our kids “would you like Weetbix or toast for breakfast?” “Would you like peanut butter or vegemite on your toast?” “Would you like to wear your sneakers or sandals today?”
Simple small everyday choices, that are within our family limits worked well. It also got kids thinking! And I also discovered lots of things about my children. Soon we moved onto asking which jobs around the house that they would do; “Will you empty the dishwasher or empty the rubbish bins?” Then when we progressed to asking; “when do you want to rotate your jobs – every week or every month?”
Here’s some tips on how you might like to play around with sharing control in your house to avoid power struggles:
- For each choice give two options, each of which are ok with you. For example, “Do you want to do eat now or in ten minutes?”
- Give choices before your child gets resistant. If you give them afterwards, you reward resistance.
- For each choice, give them a few seconds to choose.
- If they don’t choose, or they choose an option you didn’t provide, choose for them.
- Only give choices that fit your limits and values
- Give 99% of your choices when things are going well.
- When things aren’t going well, say, “You’ve been getting to make a lot of choices around here. Now it’s my turn.”
Have fun sharing control and keeping your self-control not controlling others.
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