Balancing the Power
Your child is working on figuring out who they are; what they like, what they dislike… and what they can get away with.
Young children push boundaries and work to establish independence; it is how they learn. By pushing a boundary, whether with you, a teacher, a friend, or even themselves, your child is experimenting and drawing conclusions based on reactions by others and on the consequences. Sometimes they are testing to see if you really meant it when you said no. When your child asks “Can I have a cookie?” and you respond with a “no,” any follow up questions or actions are their way of figuring out the “rules” and how to maintain or gain control in their world. As a parent of a young child, I am right there with you. I know how frustrating it can be to answer the same question (10 times in a row), to see your child try and do something that you just told them not to do, or to hear the dreaded phrase “No!” when you ask your child to do something.
Here at Rainbow Child Care Center, we recognize that this can be a very trying time. There are many strategies out there to help reduce the power struggles in your home. Here are a few of our favorites!
- Offer choices whenever possible. When you are offering choices, make sure that you can live with whichever option they choose. If it’s time for your child to brush their, teeth do not propose, “You can go brush your teeth or you can sit here,” if sitting there is not an option. Instead take the focus off the task by asking them how they want to do the desired task. “Do you want to hop like a bunny or slither like a snake to the sink to brush your teeth?”
- Avoid asking open ended questions. “What do you want for snack?” leaves too many choices for a child and does not set any limits, leaving the opportunity for answers like candy or cupcakes. Instead offer two or three choices that are acceptable. “Do you want an apple, cheese stick or banana for snack?” This sets the healthy snack limit but still allows your child to feel in control.
- Explain your reasoning and listen to theirs. Sometimes your child just wants to know why they are doing something or why something is important. They are still trying to figure out the world, so even if you feel like you have explained before or that they should already know, try and take a moment to explain.
- Asked and answered. You can use this technique when your child repeatedly asks the same question, hoping for a different result. The first time they ask, answer and provide a short rational. When they ask a second time respond with,“Did you ask me this already?” When they say “yes,” respond with, “What was my answer?” Allow your child to tell you what your answer was and follow up with, “Do you think I am the type of (mom, dad, person) who changes their mind?” Allow them to respond and then tell them, “Your question has been asked and answered.”
- Find win-win solutions. When you and your child both want different things, sit down and problem solve together. Explain to your child that you want them to win, but you need to win also. What type of solutions can you come up with? Not only does this help you calmly avoid the power struggle, it also helps your child build valuable problem solving skills.
My daughter, pushing boundaries at nap time