I had a strong willed child 20 years ago and things haven't changed much. He was born to test boundries... if only I had known then, what I know now... would he have turned out different? I believe so. Many parents complain of power struggles, but what parent really wants a child who is 'weak-willed?' Hopefully no one would choose this. But when I power struggled with my eldest son, I really just wanted him to listen and do what I ask. I didn't think about how this may affect him in the future, causing low self esteem and the inability to have confidence in his decision making. Now I hear myself complaining that he has a difficult time trying things on his own and relying too much on me. The power struggles I was having took away the power from my son instead I could of guided him to use his power in useful ways.
Looking at my 2 year old, I need to make sure I am changing the way I use to do things. I need to empower my children, teach them to use their skills and have confidence in who they are and what their abilities are. At 2 years old toddlers usually want to 'show off' or impress their adults. They want to do the same things their parents are doing and make the same decisions we are making. By allowing them to be messy and try cooking, vacuuming, folding laundry, sanding, painting etc... we teach them to be competent, capable people.
It's funny because even though my 2 year old is talking and rarely signing, he still uses his sign in stressful or frustrating situations. This past 3 days of two sick babies has shown me patience beyond means. My 2 year old has tried power struggling, tantrums, throwing things, crying... you name it, he tried it. I had to stay strong. At one point he was litterallly walking around the living room pulling books off shelves, tossing puzzles and climbing on furniture. I asked him if he wanted to play with the puzzle and he just signed ALL DONE and kept walking around. Another time he was crying and crying for 'what appeared to be no reason' and I asked what he wanted and he began signing MORE MORE... When I asked what, he signed MORE MLK. So funny.
He was so distraught and out of sorts from being sick, but his signing was helping him cope and communicate. How wonderful that he has such a great tool to fall back on.
Anyhow, I'm getting off topic. What I wanted to give you today was a way to stop power struggles... the first lesson is to stop power struggling with them.
Use redirection, distractions and teach with kindness and firmness. You can use choices, routines, opportunities to help and hey, try using your self of humour. Many children may not want to clean up their toys... but when you make it a funny game, they are more likely to oblige... for instance..
Use a robot voice and say, "Robot is packing all your toys... must place them in this box." walk around like a robot and say to your two year old, follow me!
Make a race to put toys away the fastest.
Sing songs... like a clean up song.
Sort colours, shapes, animals... make it fun.
Note on tantrums...
If a child is having a tantrum, pick them up and gently and firmly remove them from the situation, validate their feelings and move to another location, distract them with something else once they calm down. The best thing to do with a child under 3 is suggest a few choices. Such as:
"Would you like to curl up in your special corner with your stuffie or book?" ( a positive time out )
"Well, how about playing with your dollhouse?"
"Do you want to play puzzles or play flashlights in the living room?"
All of these are meant to be distractions, but like me, sometimes they are not ready to respond to any suggestions, that is when you can respond by saying something like, "I need to make dinner and I could really use your help...you are welcome to stay here and rest (code for continue your tantrum) or can come and help me wash the vegetables." Most children will want to be with you and join in on water play in the sink.
Obviously, everyone has a different situation and different child. Feel free to share your great distraction or redirection ideas for others to read.
Try asking questions??
Power struggles are usually a will of do this and do that telling responses from parents and the children saying, NO. The way we approach children can diffuse a power struggle quickly.
Say thing like, "Do you want to bring your dolly or your blankie." If they want something else, say simple, that wasn't a choice. You decide. Saying you decide puts the power in their hands and allows them to process and make decisions.
Say things like, "What do we need to do before bed?" or "What do we need to put on when we go outside." Give them the opportunity to make problem solving decisions. Also, validating feelings will soon dissolve anger and power struggling. "I can see you are angry that we have to leave, we will be back to play another day."
Can you give examples of power struggles you were able to diffuse?
Think on these things.