A Parent’s Guide to Avoiding Power Struggles.
Both you and your child win when you avoid a power struggle with your teen. While it’s natural for your child to challenge your authority and try to claim more independence, you have a responsibility to teach them to resolve conflicts respectfully and maintain family harmony.
If you’re concerned that your teen is breaking your house rules or trying to provoke arguments, there are ways to keep them safe and restore order. Try these tips for transforming power struggles into more positive communications.
Steps to Take Yourself:
1. Set priorities. While some rules are essential, getting rid of unnecessary restrictions can help your teen to feel more motivated and trusted. Give them opportunities to show that they can handle more responsibility and let them learn from their experiences.
As a woman who has 4 teenagers living in the house simultaneously, I am here to tell you that setting priorities is key. I will go one step further and tell you that your priorities can be different for each child too. I let go of the idea of perfectly clean bedrooms and no laundry on the floor a long time ago. Now, it’s not always a disaster and we do have room cleaning days but for the most part I LET. IT. GO! My thing is homework and honesty. Now if clean rooms are a must in your home, you do you boo. The beauty is that we all get to choose what is important for us. What’s important in your world is for you, but if EVERYTHING is important, than nothing really is.
2. Manage your emotions. You’ll appear more confident and make sounder decisions if you stay calm. Take a few deep breaths and choose words that will help to pacify the situation.
I call this keeping an “even” tone. When we chandelier or plummet our emotions it can cause our children to either do the same or assume the adult role. Either way the adult is not being an adult. I used to be quite the drama queen and could escalate a situation in about 2.5 seconds. Not today.
No lie, I practiced and searched for my even tone by recording myself on video. The hardest part was watching and listening to myself. Sometimes I sounded harsh and cruel even if I was speaking the truth. Other times my facial expressions were the opposite of my words, if that makes sense. I kept at it. I pushed myself to speak "even" when I was at the grocery store, knitting group, school, church, with family and even the customer service agent on the phone. One of my favorite people on the planet is Brene Brown. Her mantra has become mine. Don’t puff up, don’t shrink, stand your sacred ground. Where in life can you practice being more even? In what relationship do you need to stand your sacred ground?
3. Be positive. When your teen seems to be defying you, remember their attractive qualities and the things that they do well. Be sure to give them praise as well as constructive criticism.
As an example, let’s say we are dealing with poor choices. This one comes up often and it’s hard. I’ll may ask, "if you continue to make these choices where do you think they will lead you? I book end that conversation by pulling their strengths into the mix. I highlight the “beauty” they possess that can support them in making even better decisions in the future. I also use this opportunity to speak about what they’ve told me they want for their lives. Then I drop it. There is NO need to beat a dead anything!
4. Stay firm. If your child discovers that you’ll give in under pressure, they’ll keep trying to get their own way. Stick to your decisions even when backing down would be easier.
For example, in our home young people cannot curse. I have friends who do allow their teens to curse. I am not judging. To each their own in their home. I am also not naive about the fact that my teens curse but the rule in my home is, teens cannot curse unless they pay bills for the home we live in. To this day, none of the teens in my home curse and I have a lot of visiting teens. My house is often full, and not even the ones who are allowed to curse in theirs curse in mine. It’s a respect thing and I love it.
Steps to Take with Your Teen:
1. Express empathy. You can validate your child’s feelings even when you disagree with what they’re saying. Try to look at situations from your teen’s perspective and negotiate solutions that meet both your needs.
2. Speak respectfully. Steer clear of name-calling and personal insults even when you’re upset. Be tactful, direct, and open to discussing different opinions. Please refrain from bringing your inner teenager to the surface. Find your “even” tone.
3. Ask helpful questions. There’s a big difference between asking your teen why they’re so lazy and asking them why they didn’t clean their room as promised. Focus on fixing the issue rather than casting blame.
4. Explain your reasons. Let your teen know why you expect certain behavior from them. They may think you are being unfair when you’re actually concerned about their safety. However keep from giving long lectures, they literally tune you out. It’s not intentional they just do.
5. Request their help. As much as possible, encourage your teen to use their own values to create their own rules. They will be less likely to complain and more likely to comply. Do you know your teen's values? They may be different from yours.
6. Offer choices. Give your teen options when appropriate so they can practice handling greater independence. If they need to do more household chores, maybe they can decide whether to do those tasks on weekends or after school. When I am working with parents I suggest they figure out what they ARE OK with. I’m not saying every time it's a yes, because my kids hear plenty of no's but it's not very often. The result for us is an open line of communication.
7. Share power. Invite your teen to take on increased leadership. Use family meetings to collaborate on household decisions. Be willing to negotiate some limits such as adopting a later curfew on weekends in exchange for making check-in calls to let you know they’re safe.
8. Do things together. Building a solid foundation for your relationship can reduce power struggles. Put time aside to do things as a family and one-on-one. Cook dinner together or arrange a weekend outing.
9. Plan ahead. Teens who are hopeful about their future tend to be less defiant. Ask your teen what their goals are or guide them toward resources that will help them explore their options.
10. Seek support. If you want more help, talk with other parents or a professional counselor. Your relationship with your teen may benefit from additional insights and strategies.
Seeking more control over their lives is a sign that your child is growing up, but you can keep power struggles with your teen from turning into arguments and fights. Work together to prepare them to take on more responsibility and encourage them to learn from their own experiences.