Imagine you are having a power struggle with your middler. You know, when you feel angry, frustrated, and maybe even powerless because your child is not cooperating. You could even be thinking, “You are so inconsiderate “, “You’re defying me”, or even “You’re trying to test me.” Parents often feel crazy when they are trying to move an immovable object; their middler. There is a way to turn this craziness into calmness. It all begins with changing your thinking first.
If your child feels that you are trying to control them; that you are not on their side, then the power struggle begins. Each person needs power. We can choose either a soft power approach or a hard power approach to meet needs. When your perspective is how can I help my child meet their developmental needs and my own simultaneously? you are then walking by their side rather than pushing against them. Your son or daughter will soon feel your love and support and want to cooperate.
Aesop’s fable The North Wind and the Sun illustrates these two approaches and contrasts their effectiveness.
The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there is strength in gentleness.
“We shall have a contest,” said the Sun. Far below, a man traveled a winding road. He was wearing a warm winter coat.
“As a test of strength” said the Sun, “Let us see which of us can take the coat off the man.”
“It will be quite simple for me to force him to remove his coat,” bragged the Wind.
The Wind blew so hard that the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.
Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. She warmed the air and the frosty ground.
The man on the road unbuttoned his coat. The Sun grew slowly brighter and brighter. Soon the man felt so hot, he took off his coat and sat down in a shady spot.
“How did you do that?” said the wind.
“It was easy,” said the Sun. “I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way.”
When a power struggle is brewing, consider this fable and choose the path of the Sun. Look for ways to build cooperation through win/win thinking. This approach involves give-and-take fueled with mutual respect.
Here are common power-struggle triggering thoughts along with replacement thoughts that will avoid power struggles.
|Power-Struggle Triggering Thoughts – The Wind
|Cooperation Building Thoughts- The Sun
|You are so inconsiderate.
|This is a developmental stage and will change. Be patient and don’t label.
|You’re defying me.
|My child has needs and is trying to cope. I need to try a more effective approach.
|You’re trying to test me.
|Perhaps I need to set clearer boundaries and limits.
|I can’t stand it.
|I need to get control of myself.
|You never listen to me.
|I need to be more effective in my communication.
When you choose cooperation building thoughts, you shift the power from controlling your middler to changing yourself. Therefore, the power struggle loses its wind.
The event-think-feel-do cycle theory suggests that we respond to a power struggle conflict often quickly with strong feelings and actions. These are triggered by our thinking about the event and the people involved. We can try to change our actions first; for example not yelling at our kids. This is a fantastic start. Yet for more permanent change, I believe we need to analyze the thinking behind our feelings and actions. If we continue to think in a power-struggle producing way while trying to act in a cooperation-building manner; our think-feel-do cycle will be in-congruent and we will not be very effective.
The more we self-reflect on what is my part of the power struggle and how can I change? the more we are developing our emotional intelligence. Rather than emotionally reacting, we can label and manage our emotions. This change in our perspective of our middler is what it takes to be like the Sun. You will also be teaching your kids how to self-reflect and learn that they have the power to change themselves. Won’t your life be wonderful when your middler follows your lead and also takes responsibility to change craziness into calmness in your family.
© 2012 Cynthia Klein, published in Parenting on the Peninsula magazine December 2012. Vol 6. Edition 12. Cynthia Klein has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with dads, moms and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between parents and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, webinars, and private parent coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association. Contact Cynthia at bridges 2 understanding, bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com or call 650. 341.0779.