Power struggles? Another breakdown? Suddenly, flinging myself down smack dab in the middle of the hallway screaming seemed like a dynamic idea. With complete clarity, I understood why children choose this path of emotional release.
How many times do you engage in power struggles over what your children will wear?
Even the best of children give push back over what shoes to wear and even protest for the right to wear them on the wrong feet. What’s that all about anyway? Needless to say, fighting your child can cause major mommy overwhelm.
WHAT DOES A POWER STRUGGLE LOOK LIKE?
Just when you think the day is going to be a fun-filled journey bouncing on marshmallows, your child makes sharp turn south. Suddenly the marshmallow is on fire. You both begin flinging it back and forth, similar to roasting marshmallows at a campfire. You work desperately to suppress the dooming fire before the marshmallow is ruined. But, it only further ignites the heat.
Welcome to power struggles with a child.
Saved by the Bell… Freeze…
You’ve got two options here:
One, you can discipline. Pick from the usual basket of behavior correctors, a timeout, spanking, reprimand, threaten to take away toys or screen time. If you’re feeling strong you play tug of war, only to have it happen all over again tomorrow.
Two, you can give your child some healthy power over their own life and eliminate the need for any power struggles with your child, while helping them build strong life skills.
HOW DO I STOP MY CHILD FROM FIGHTING FOR POWER?
To avoid power struggles, children need to be given some control over their own lives. Essentially that’s all they’re fighting for anyway. This isn’t a let-the-child-run-the-house type of power. The power you choose to give should be strategic and based on their abilities which you know best.
You can take advantage of power struggles and use them to evaluate where your child is ready to be set free. Thing is, as children come into independence, they need to be given some power to help them develop their independence.
So, the question is how do you give a child power over their own life while not allowing them to run the household?
It’s like delicate poetry, trying to weave blossoming independence with house rules. The last thing you want is a child who’s a brat. We all know that child. Don’t raise that child.
A simple way to give your child power while keeping them reigned in is by giving them power over something very insignificant to you, yet the size of Goliath to them.
It sounds too simple to be true but there are a couple of things to consider.
Firstly, as a parent, you have to let go of control of simple things for it to benefit your child, their siblings, and you.
Parenting may give you gray hair, but you can embrace the gray hair and avoid the fight altogether.
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USE AN EVERYDAY TASK TO AVOID POWER STRUGGLES WITH YOUR CHILD
This one simple yet powerful way to give your child control in their lives will boost their confidence and you’ll avoid unnecessary power struggles every day.
So, without further marshmallow flinging, Let’s begin.
AVOID POWER STRUGGLES WITH CLOTHING CHOICES
Let them pick.
That’s as simple as it gets. Clothing is incredibly surface; it plays no real part in the rules of the house or their ability to accomplish tasks.
After all, if you think about it, you’re the one who buys the clothing and brings it into the house. So ultimately, you are choosing what they wear.
The kicker is allowing them to choose what they wear each day.
Once your child can put on a shirt and pants stop doing it for them immediately.
As a stay at home, we don’t go to many places, an appointment here and there, to the park, grocery store or a family/friend’s house. None of those places require a dress-code outside of a basic shirt and pants.
If you embarrass easily, that’s something you’ll need to weigh it out. Burning marshmallows or people seeing your child dressed in an “abstract” way.
DON’T FIGHT OR SHOW DISAPPOINTMENT IN THEIR CHOICES
* Give up your own ideas about matching.
When children first start choosing their clothing to wear, they don’t typically have a sense of what “goes together”. Depending on their choices they could end up pretty abstract with stripes and polka dots or camo and a Chevron pattern. The thing to remember is children have to be taught to care about these things. All they know is that they need clothes on. And let me be frank, that seems obvious but raising boys has taught me that in a boy’s world clothes are entirely optional.
* Don’t be concerned with “how” they wear clothing.
On the flip side, your child may surprise you with their neatly put together outfits. Then out of nowhere, they don’t wear the clothing items the way we expect.
One of my boys always matched, he was good about picking clothing that went together. But for some reason, he had a wild aversion to pants touching his ankles so he would purposefully tuck every pair of pants into his socks. Without fail.
It was comical but again, he had the power to choose how he wanted to wear his clothing.
Expect a shirt to end up backward. I let them know and show them how to tell if a shirt is on properly but I don’t insist they change it. It’s another way to give them power over their choices.
Come to find, they purposely wear their shirt backward. Their reason? They want people behind them to see the picture. That’s valid. 🤷🏾♀️
* Make the choices simple.
You’ll notice children tend to pick the same handful of clothing over and over again. It’s what’s familiar and comfortable. When you don’t get bothered by the repetition it gives them more power in making their own decisions.
One of the best things I ever did was declutter and drastically decrease the amount of clothing my children had. With fewer options, they are less overwhelmed and happier.
It can be tough in the beginning and your child may never actively want to choose their clothing. There’s nothing wrong with that but if they do, let them.
BENEFITS OF ALLOWING CHILDREN TO PICK OUT THEIR CLOTHES
* It frees up your own time and energy.
This is probably my favorite of all the benefits. I’m not a big planner; my days are filled to the brim. Seriously, the whole pick out clothes for the next day is not an option. By the time bedtime hits, I am not messing with tomorrow’s clothes.
Now, you can use the time spent deciding what everybody is going to wear to do other things.
Honestly, I pick maybe 3 outfits a year for 4 of my 7 children. Other than that, I don’t bother with it at all, I pick for the baby and sometimes my toddler. Which leads me to the next benefit.
* Gives older siblings a sense of responsibility.
Let older siblings pick sibling clothing. I have 4 boys all within two years apart. As they have figured out how to make these decisions, I let them help the younger ones.
Now, you’re providing more power to the older one along with some minor independent responsibility.
It’s not huge in our adult world of bills and politics but they love helping and being active in picking out clothing and getting younger siblings dressed.
Picking out younger siblings’ clothes gives them a sense of accomplishment.
* Passive teaching.
I homeschool my children so I turn lots of stuff into teachable moments. However, not every teachable moment has to be announced.
This is where passive teaching comes into play. They don’t need to know you’re teaching them an invaluable life-skill. They’re making decisions every day that pertain specifically to them. And if they’re the old helping the younger, they’re learning to care for others, while being gentle and kind.
GOOD NEWS ABOUT USING CLOTHING TO BEAT THE BATTLE
You’ll find over time when you do have a nice place to be and you actually need to choose their clothing, they won’t fight you because it’s a rare occasion.
They let you have the authority because they aren’t being told every day what to wear.
Children notice that believe it or not. They may hang their heads for a moment but the power struggle is utterly gone.
Jamee’s married and raising 7 energetic children. After being redeemed from a life of depression and brokenness, her love for Jesus drives her passion for helping women crush the belief that being loved is possible for everyone but herself while learning to cultivate a life with courage in faith, as a wife and mother! Find her at FranklyJamee!