Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Power Struggle

I'm sure that any of you who have experience with a three year old or kids in general have had that moment when you ask that child to do something and they look you in the eye and say "no." Enter the power struggle- you want the child to do something and they refuse. Now, take into account the child who is strong willed (stubborn) and the parent who also is strong willed (stubborn) and there my friends, is a battle waiting to happen. Except, it doesn't always have to be a tug of war, resulting in being red faced and frustrated and being told "I don't like you mommy!" (I've never heard this phrase). Ha. 

So, I know I am not a parenting expert by any means and I am still learning and taking things one day at a time when it comes to raising a feisty three year old girl. BUT there are some things that I do to make it all a little easier.

1. Step back- One of the best things I have learned in any parenting struggle is for ME to take a mommy time out. I will literally say "Mommy needs time right now." and call Will in and walk away for a minute to take a breather and regather my thoughts. I use this time to take a step back and think about if this is a battle worth fighting and how to move forward. The ability to step back also causes me to think about how my actions have influenced the behavior and my role in the situation. 

2. Can I be flexible? This is another question I have to ask myself before entering the battle. Am I being too rigid? Is there anything that I am willing to bend a little bit on? Can I offer choices instead? A lot of times we set rules/expectations and then get so rigid in enforcing them we leave little to no room for flexibility. Sometimes I think too, that we get it in our head that if give in, in any way, that we are letting our kids run all over us or letting them run the show. My thought is, is if I, as the parent, can take a step back and be the adult to end the struggle and find ways that we can both get what we want- we all win! 

3. Make it fun- one of my most favorite things about working with kiddos is the fact that how can you NOT have fun with a silly, curious three year old?! So, at our house we make things fun. For example, a lot of parents might struggle with clean up time or other simple chores around the house. If you can make something a game, kids go crazy for that! So, take advantage of this age while you can and set timers, count and race to complete a task! 

4. Offer Choices- this sort of piggy backs off number 2. If you can give as many choices as possible, the better! And make sure the choices are ones that you are completely okay with, either way! If a child is refusing to do a certain task- give them a choice of when they would like to complete it. For example, if a child does not want to get in the bathtub, give them a choice of if they would like to take a bath before dinner or after. I think offering choices and giving them opportunities to choose makes them feel in control and they won't try to gain power in other ways through defiance or noncompliance. 

5. Choose your battles- kind of goes along with being flexible but choosing your battles is something that I think is one of the most important skills you can have when it comes to parenting. Sometimes, when I'm in the middle of a power struggle and arguing with my child over what she is going to wear to daycare that day and am able to take that step back and really think- does this REALLY matter? Is this something that I REALLY want to fight about? Most of the time, in the grand scheme of things, it isn't. Since I have ruled out the things that I am not going to fight about, it gives me more energy to really encourage and show my daughter what I WILL fight about/for. 

6. Give hugs- I don't know how many times Sophia and I have been upset with each other over something probably very trivial (choose your battles!) and all it takes is for me to kneel down and open up my arms and offer a hug. More times than not, she comes running and looks up at me with a big smile. I can't stress enough that when children are acting out the most that sometimes all they really need is a good snuggle. 

I understand that when you are in the situation and eye to eye with the tear stained, tantruming three year old who is yelling they hate you, it is hard not to want to tighten those reins and just MAKE THAT CHILD DO WHAT I SAY!  But if you are able to take a step back and end the power struggle with a little flexibility, fun and cuddles (of course!) it might make a world of difference in your home, I know for us, it has! 

PS. someone will probably have to remind me of this post when Sophia enters adolescence.