What’s Really Behind Most Power Struggles?

Have you ever found yourself thinking, "My child just wants to pick a fight with me", or "Why can't we just have a peaceful day?"


Chances are, if you have a strong- willed child, these thoughts have crossed your mind.

No, your child doesn't hate you. No, they aren't trying to make you miserable.

So what is their goal, by attempting to draw you into one power struggle after the other?


Many times their goal is co-regulation.

What is co-regulation? It's the supportive process in which the child uses the cues and responses of their caregiver in order to learn self-regulation. Many parents do this naturally.

For example: If a child falls off a play structure and hurts themselves, their parent will typically go to them and attempt to calm them by holding them, talking in a gentle voice, and coaching the child to calm down so that they will feel better.

Now let's think about how our children perceive the world around them. It's big! Many experiences are unfamiliar. They learn by trial and error. Their days feel long and their environments sometimes feel overwhelming. They find comfort in familiarity and consistency. And depending on their temperament some children need it more than others.

It's no surprise that sometimes the slightest change can throw our children for a loop! These are typically the moments when they attempt to co-regulate.

So how should you respond when this happens? The primary suggestion I offer to parents is my Tantrum Tamer Guide. Not only does it provide a framework for how to respond in the midst of a tantrum, but it can also be used in moments when your child is dysregulated for any reason.

In addition to that here is an acronym that can help you remember how to respond:

C- caring voice/touch: "Aww.. I see that you're sad."

A- ask a question: "Do you need a hug?", "Would you like help?"

L- look into their eyes and listen to their concerns (if your child is not yet verbal you can get on their level and look in their eyes with genuine empathy).

M- make a plan to overcome the moment: "Let's take some deep breaths and then try again."

I know in these moments it can be tough to remain calm, however when you see how powerful this tool can be, you'll be even more encouraged to respond to your child with grace and confidence. Modeling the behavior you expect is perhaps the best tool you can add to your parental toolbox!

If you haven't already taken it, I'm hosting a free workshop on Positive Discipline where you will learn even more tools for enforcing boundaries with love. You can register for that HERE!


One other powerful tool to reduce power struggles is by offering choices and you can read about that HERE.


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