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Power Struggles

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Managing Bedtime Power Struggles

Understanding why your little one is resistant to sleep is half the battle.

A child's bedtime should be a welcome respite from a busy day, but all too often, parents find themselves locked in a battle with a child who's balking at going to bed. Bedtime battles often surface at around age 2 for a number of reasons.

  1. Fear of separation. A toddler may be afraid to go to bed if he has a problem with nighttime separation from his parents. Practice in making this separation will help. In the meantime, be sure your child gets lots of hugging & other reassurances during his waking hours & encourage his attachment with a security object to help him handle separation from you.

  2. Fear of the dark. If your child fears sleeping in a dark room, use a nightlight or keep his room door ajar with hallway light filtering in until he's sound asleep.

  3. An upset schedule. If his bedtime isn't regular - if he goes to bed at 7 p.m. one night & 9 p.m. the next - he probably won't be sleepy when you're ready to put him down for the night. When he gets off schedule, you may need to work gradually, over 2 or 3 days, to get back to his normal bedtime.

  4. Curiosity. Some kids simply don't want to miss out on anything going on in their fascinating environment - so they resist sleep. While you don't want to stifle your child's curiosity, you do need to be firm that certain hours of the evening & night are grown-up times. Also don't make an unnecessary show of anything interesting you're planning for after his bedtime.

  5. Inappropriate associations. Some children resist a going-to-bed routine because they've already learned to associate sleep with other activities. If your child has learned to fall asleep on the sofa while you watch TV, or in your arms while you rock in the rocking chair, or in your bed, this is his established bedtime routine. Unfortunately, these bedtime habits are tough to break & cause many sleep problems down the line.

If your child resists the new bedtime routine that makes sleep a scheduled & natural part of each day, be prepared for some difficult nights ahead as you seek to undo bad habits.

How To Avoid Power Struggles with Your Children - By James P. Krehbiel

Inevitably, sometime within your parenting career, you'll face a power-struggle with your child. If you don’t, you may be too intimidating, your child may be rather compliant, or you have mastered the art of managing conflict.

Power-struggles occur due to a variety of factors, but invariably make a parent feel fatigued, frustrated & helpless.

Power-struggles emerge as a conflict over demands, wants & needs. Parents will attempt to get their child to manifest certain desired behaviors while the child may choose to react to the request in a negative manner.

Children demonstrate various techniques for “testing” their parent’s patience. They may cry, have temper tantrums, manipulate, avoid contact, become aggressive & refuse to comply with expectations.

Parents may employ various methods in trying to hold their children accountable regarding their requests. They use control, lecturing, pressure, guilt, bribery, sulking, or aggressive behavior as strategies to get what they want from their children. None of these methods generally work very effectively.

Parents who seek counseling will indicate that they've tried everything in their arsenal in an attempt to get appropriate behavior displayed by their children.

Power-struggles may occur over issues such as schooling, household chores & a child’s desire for more freedom, or a child merely wanting his own way.

Power-struggles can be minimized if parents will change their tactics with their children. This process can be accomplished if a parent is open to new ways of managing problems:

  • Parenting isn't about doing things the “right or wrong” way. If what you're doing isn’t working, shift gears & move in another direction.
  • Most power-struggles can be avoided by establishing meaningful, consistent, logical consequences. Children should be informed regarding the nature of positivenegative consequences.

Fight the urge to engage & merely lay out the consequences for appropriate or inappropriate behavior.

  • Major in the majors. Don’t “lock horns” over issues of little consequence. If you do, the little issues will become major storms.
  • Involvement, teaching, role-modeling & coaching work better than power as a means of managing your children.
  • Never acknowledge or entertain temper tantrums. Distance yourself & isolate your child (time-out) until she is ready to respond rationally.
  • Don’t get “hooked” by your child’s behavior. Step back, take a deep breath, disengage & set logical consequences appropriate to the offense.
  • Consequences for children should primarily be positive providing a preventative means of avoiding the potential for power-struggles.

Unreasonable consequences imparted to a child while a parent is angry will serve to reinforce the power-struggle.

By all means, avoid power-struggles over schooling. Power-struggles over a child’s education are number one on the list.

Rather than pontificate with children about grades, capabilities & school failure, ask them to explore & make value judgments about their performance.

On occasion, monitor their performance, but fight the urge to continuously confront them about their failures. Set positive consequences to encourage completed work.

Emphasize the quality of their work (process) rather than grades (outcome). Utilize outside resources, if necessary, such as tutors, parent advocates & counseling services rather than confronting educational issues yourself.

Maintain a sense of involvement with your child that isn't conditional upon school success. Ironically, it may break the power-struggle & generally lead a child to change his perspective about schooling.

  • Remember, you're the adult. Kids will always try to test the limits.
  • Make sure that your logical consequences that are based on negative behavior are reasonable. Consequences are designed to be used until improved behavior is observable. 
  • Always explore problems rather than confront them aggressively. Have your children make value judgments about their behavior rather than you making judgments on their behalf.

Avoiding power-struggles involves setting appropriate limits for your children, being consistent in enforcing them & being reasonable with the management of consequences.

Remember, positive consequences are much more effective in leading to improved behavior & help eradicate power-struggles. Children will respect you more if you're significantly involved in a positive manner in your child’s life & choose to role-model the behaviors that you desire your children to emulate.

James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S. LPC is an author, freelance writer & nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. His personal growth book, Stepping Out of the Bubble is available at amazon.com. James can be reached at www.krehbielcounseling.com.

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this is simply an informational website concerning emotions & feelings. it does not advise anyone to perform methods -treatments - practice described within, endorse methods described anywhere within or advise any visitor with medical or psychological treatment that should be considered only thru a medical doctor, medical professional, or mental health professional.  in no way are we a medical professional or mental health professional.