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What To Do With a Stubborn Kid

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How many daily power struggles take place in your house?  Do you sometimes feel as though your child is saying "no" just for the sake of being disagreeable?  Well, you may be right.  Some kids just need more of a sense of control in their lives.  You probably noticed this from waaay back, when they were preschoolers and even toddlers.  Some parenting experts theorize that whatever behaviour traits you saw in your kids as toddlers, you'll see again as teenagers.  (Not very comforting for those of you who may be reading this and cringing over memories of the “terrible twos”.  I'm very sorry to be the bearer of bad news.)

However, there are some things we can do.  The need for power is not a bad thing.  We all need to feel a degree of autonomy and control in our lives.  It's the excessive need for power that becomes a problem.  And although we may not be able to "control" how much control our individual kids need for themselves, there are things we can do that can help to avoid fanning the flames and even deescalate power struggles as they arise.

First of all, remind yourself that this is actually a good trait in many ways.  You're raising a kid who knows what she wants and is less likely to be pushed around or talked into something she knows isn't right for her.  Hooray!  Now if only she'd unload the dishwasher when she's told to...

Which leads to another key way to avoid power struggles and maximize the natural talents and desires of our kids.  Remember that if we insist too much on being right ourselves and insist on having things done our way all the way, we're actually modeling for our kids that power works.  We demonstrate to them that being strong and inflexible is actually the way to go.  So we need to make sure that we're setting a good example by modeling and demonstrating the behaviours we'd like to see in our kids.  Power struggles don't have to end with one winner and one loser; everyone wins if we work together to create a solution that everyone is content with.

As our kids age, our level of control over their lives continues to drop and drop, so perhaps some of the struggles are due to that difficult shift of power over to our kids.  Give opportunities for choices you can live with, and then let your child decide.  Remember that sometimes mistakes are the best teachers, so give your kids the space to make their own decisions and handle their own consequences.  Keep assessing and reassessing what your kids are truly capable of, then give them the chance to work within those new and expanding boundaries.  Choices, respect, and compromise are key ways to diffuse stubbornness and power struggles – at any age.

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Andrea Ramsay Speers • Psychotherapist & Parent Coach • Oakville Family Institute • 175 Glenashton Dr., Oakville ON • Tel.: 905-491-6949

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