9 practical tips to avoid power struggles with kids

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One of the most common challenges that parents face is dealing with power struggles. Whether it’s a toddler throwing a tantrum or a teenager rebelling, these conflicts can leave both parents and children feeling frustrated and defeated. This article will empower you with nine tips that will not only help you defuse power struggles but also strengthen your relationship with your kids. 

A mother and daughter having power struggle pointing at each other in the kitchen.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Set clear expectations

Creating a roadmap for your child sets the tone for a harmonious relationship. Clearly communicate your expectations and rules, making sure they are age-appropriate. When kids understand the boundaries, they are more likely to cooperate. Frame expectations positively, emphasizing the benefits of following the rules rather than the consequences of breaking them. 

If you have a clear rule of family bonding time and no screens after dinner, your son will know that playing Minecraft with his friends at 6 p.m. is not an option for him. So when there is a conversation at school to play at that time, he’ll try to push the game to an earlier time. 

Offer choices, not ultimatums

Kids love to feel a sense of control. Instead of imposing rigid ultimatums, provide them with choices within acceptable boundaries. This allows them to feel empowered while still adhering to the rules you’ve set. 

For instance, ask if they want to tidy up their room before or after snack time. They’ll still need to clean their room, but at least they can choose when. 

“As a mom, I’ve learned that the secret to avoiding power struggles with kids lies in picking your battles and leading with empathy. It’s about giving them choices within set boundaries and listening to their little voices with respect. Sometimes, it’s not about getting automatic compliance, but guiding them to learn how to make the right decisions for themselves.” 

— Jessica Haggard, Easy Homemade Life

Turn chores into games

Transforming mundane tasks into exciting games can make a world of difference. Whether it’s a race to pick up toys or a creative storytelling session while cleaning, injecting fun into chores fosters cooperation and helps develop a positive attitude towards responsibilities.

When toys pile up for several days, kids are faced with the daunting task of cleaning up lots of toys. Make it easier for them to tackle this chore by turning it into a treasure hunt challenge. Create a list of hidden items among the toys, and your kids will excitedly race to find them while tidying up. 

Two little girls standing in a kitchen holding a chalkboard.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Be a team player

Rather than being the authoritarian figure, position yourself as a team player. Engage your child in decision-making processes when appropriate, making them feel like a valued contributor. This not only defuses potential power struggles but also teaches them valuable problem-solving skills.

Navigating mealtime battles calls for a team approach. Instead of imposing rigid food choices, let your kids pick a new healthy recipe for the whole family to prepare together. By working as a team, you’ll turn potential food struggles into enjoyable family cooking sessions, fostering a positive connection around the dinner table. 

Create a routine

Kids thrive on routine and predictability. Establishing a consistent daily routine helps minimize power struggles by providing a sense of structure. When kids know what to expect, they are more likely to cooperate without resistance.

Implement a calming pre-bedtime routine, including activities like taking a shower, reading a bedtime story together and dimming the lights. This predictable sequence helps create a sense of security and signals the transition to sleep, reducing resistance and creating a more peaceful bedtime experience for both child and parent.

Offer positive reinforcement

Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s achievements, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in shaping behavior. Don’t shy away from giving words of encouragement, reinforcing positive actions and discouraging negative ones.

During homework sessions, acknowledge effort and focus instead of concentrating solely on correct answers. This cultivates a growth mindset and positivity around study time, creating a more encouraging environment for your child. 

Encourage open communication

Foster an environment where your child feels comfortable expressing themselves. Encourage open communication by actively listening to their thoughts and feelings. When kids know they can share without fear of judgment, they are more likely to cooperate and discuss issues rather than rebel.

When handling sibling conflicts, always give both sides a chance to speak. When tensions rise, each sibling needs to have the opportunity to express their feelings without interruption, fostering a sense of validation. This approach allows them to understand each other’s perspectives, promoting empathy and often reducing power struggles than if left unaddressed.

Two sisters sitting on a couch trying to reconcile.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Lead by example

Children learn by observing their parents. Demonstrate the behavior you wish to see in them. If you want them to communicate respectfully, exhibit the same behavior in your interactions with them and others. Your actions speak louder than words.

If you want your kids to read more books, then you need to put down your phone and start reading yourself. Instead of assigning mandatory reading time, make it a family affair by having a designated reading time each week. Immersing yourself in books alongside your child not only sets a positive example but also transforms reading into a shared and enjoyable activity.

Choose your battles wisely

Not every situation requires a power struggle. Learn to distinguish between issues that genuinely need intervention and those that can be allowed to slide. By choosing your battles wisely, you conserve energy for the situations that truly matter.

For instance, in the morning, allow your child to have control over choosing their outfit and focus on the essentials like hygiene or healthy eating. This way, you’ll maintain a balance between fostering independence and ensuring a smooth morning routine. 

One last thing

Parenting is a continuous learning journey, and power struggles are a natural part of the process. With these nine practical tips, you can foster a more positive and cooperative relationship with your kids. 

Tamara is a blogger at Thriving In Parenting, where she shares simple tips for a more organized and aesthetically pleasing home, self-care for moms and all things parenting. 

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