Parental Pitfalls That Lead to Power Struggles

by Shari Steelsmith

Tip - Sometimes the first step in resolving a power struggle with your child is taking a look at what you bring to the struggle yourself.

Power struggles are common in parent-child relationships. For some, though, it seems they are part of the everyday course, not just an occasional detour. Life is not enjoyable when you battle with your child day in and day out. Parent educator Jan Faull, author of Unplugging Power Struggles: Resolving Emotional Battles with Your Kids, offers the following perspective, "If you do have continuing problems with power struggles, it's important to look inside yourself to see what responsibility you may have and why." Faull asserts that the responsibility for resolving the power struggle rests with the adult (see the article Defusing Power Struggles) and this process can get off to a good start if you look in the mirror first.

Tools - Faull reminds parents that the goal of parenting is not to have obedient children who are easily controlled, but children who will eventually be independent, self-sufficient young adults. Often times parents have one area that causes trouble in the child-parent relationship and leads to power struggles. If you can identify any one of these trouble spots in your life, you're on your way to resolving the struggle.

  • Inexperienced parents with unrealistic expectations. This is the most common problem. Unrealistic expectations usually happen because of lack of knowledge about a child's stage of development and capabilities, or because a parent doesn't want to be bothered with the rigorous effort and time it takes to guide a child to mastery of a skill.
  • Powerful parents. Successful, entrepreneurial adults who are effective in wielding power in the workplace often attempt to use the same dictatorial approach at home with children. It doesn't work.
  • Powerless parents. Parents who are dominated by other adults or who lack assertiveness may try to make up for the lack of control in their own lives by over-controlling their children.
  • Parents seeking the ideal child. When a mom or dad has a narrow, rigid vision of what their child should be like, the actual child they gave birth to often has a different temperament or different interests.
  • Perfectionist parents. This parent insists that there is only one right way to do something - the parent's way. She or he has little tolerance or acceptance for behavior that deviates from their standard or point of view.
  • Parents who want their children to complete what they didn't or succeed as they did. This is the mom who insists her daughter become the ballerina she wasn't able to be or the dad who is determined his son will follow in his footsteps and be a basketball star. Trouble appears when the daughter isn't interested in ballet or the son doesn't particularly shine at basketball.

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