Parenting Hack: Power Struggles

It’s a story as old as time…

Parent requests child take shower. Child staunchly refuses. Parent raises voice, hurls threats, freaks out, while child watches on, mocking the helpless adult. Eventually, child melts down too and the whole house is in uproar. Parent considers briefly maybe child doesn’t need shower to survive? Parent decides if taking away Birthday Party will teach child to shower. Meanwhile, child remains unshowered and the stage is set for the next time parent requests child take shower…

Power comes from making certain decisions that affect others, and if your decision decreases someone else’s power they might fight back. Even if you are totally justified in your decision. They may also not trust you or not want to cooperate with you. This can leave you feeling angry and resentful of your child and your child drifting further and further away from complying with your requests. There is hope! But it requires a shift in how we see kids and “obedience.”

Behold, an infographic:


First and foremost, the goal and expectation should be the shifting of power in which everyone has some and the amount is appropriate to where you are in the hierarchy of the family. That means KIDS GET SOME OF THE POWER, TOO (but not nearly as much as the adults and more or less depending on birth order). If the request is for them to shower, ask your yourself what is most important to you?

When they shower?

How they shower?

Where they shower?

What they use in the shower?

What they wear after the shower?

Clean up after the shower?

If you as the parent let your child pick the time of his shower because he keeps saying “Not now” or “Tomorrow” and you can’t get him to shower at this moment, he learns how to decide what works best for him and can plan around it. He wins because he has some power in the decision, and you win because he is showering. It’s a win/win if you as the parent can let go of the expectation that the child has to do what you say NOW and will most definitely do what you say in maybe, say, an hour or in the morning.

This won’t turn around right away, so hang in there as children get good at power struggles and can argue about anything all day. It’s how they are developmentally showing their independence, so it’s a good thing I promise!

If your family needs help avoiding power struggles and getting better at balancing out the power, give us a call, send us an email, or follow us on Facebook for more resources.