How to win parent-child power struggles

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It may be funny that your child seems to hold more sway over you but beware of possible disciplinary issues. Do you ever struggle for power with your children? Here's what you should do...

struggle for powerThe parent feels that, being the one with authority and power, he should be in control. Not being able to control the child’s behaviour drives home a lot of uncertainties and insecurities: Isn’t he a good father? Where did he go wrong? The parent feels insecure and threatened. So he stands his ground. After all, he knows better and this is all for the child’s own good.

The Child's POV

The child, in turn, is also determined to stand her ground. She refuses to be bossed around. It’s not because she does not respect or love her parents, it’s just because she has her own free will too. Children are by nature self-cantered. And they have the “power” to satisfy this self-centeredness. Let us not forget that we, parents, made sure they feel that way with our love and affection. We make them feel secure and happy; it is just normal then that they would presume everything is all for/about them. If this is challenged, they get confused and/or will assert themselves.

This “power” the child wields clashes with the limitations, values and discipline set by the parents. This parent-child conflict is a natural part of growing (both for the parents and the child) as long as they are immediately resolved. Annabelle Balanzar in her “Conflicts, interrupted” article says, “Instead of trying to eradicate conflict all together (which would probably be impossible), you should instead focus on how to recognise its presence, and deal with it in the best way possible.”

Cracks in Relationships

Be wary of extended power struggles that could forever put a crack in your relationship with your child. If this power struggle goes unresolved over long periods of time, this could lead to both parties ceasing to communicate effectively, which could further lead to apathy, hatred, and even revenge. Always protect a loving and nurturing relationship with your child, first and foremost.

Never forget that parent-child power struggles are incidental exchanges as we instil discipline and values, not to establish who the boss is. While we claim that what we parents are doing are for the good for our children, the way we do them could be flawed. This is what Edecat Manila pointed out when he wrote “I Regret Spanking My Son.” More often than not, our motivations, and the paradigms we use in dealing with our children would also need re-examining.

Important Considerations

Here are a few considerations that might be able to help you resolve that power struggle that has dragged on long enough:

• Are you a perfectionist type of parent? Are you so rigid you want things done exactly the way you want them to be? Remember that each child has a personality of his own and they necessarily aren’t like yours. Studies show that perfectionist parents are in constant emotional struggles with their children.

• Do you have realistic expectations? You don’t know how to make your son really like school enough to get him good grades. Why, the rest of the family have straight A’s. Many power struggles, (which could lead to a child feeling rebellious) arise from a child constantly being compared to his siblings. Each child has his own special traits and pace in learning. They don’t also necessarily manifest at a specified age.

• Do you want your child to be like you? You are a doctor, your father is a doctor, and your wife is a doctor, why doesn’t your child like medicine?

• Do you lack experience as a parent? Sad to say, not everyone has the same level of parenting knack. Sometimes, when a parent becomes desperate and feels threatened when the child disobeys or fights back, he resorts to power play. As someone wrote, babies come without the “owner’s manual,” it becomes important then that we continue to educate ourselves with good parenting literatures. Teohara Sarbasa’s “My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy!” and “How to Get Your Tyke to Listen to You,” and Susan Teo’s “Raising Children—What You Should Know,” are great reads for anyone who have parent-child power struggle concerns.

At the end of the day, you can’t make your child perfect, but you can make your relationship with your child perfect. When you have a very good relationship with your child, there is no need to play “who’s-the-boss-here?” game.

Do you have your share of parent-child struggle for power? How do you deal with them?


Here are some articles that you might like:

10 tips on communicating with your kids

How to teach kids to use social media wisely

Yelling at your kids does NOT work!


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Written by

Ron Afable

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