Parenting power struggles are stressful.
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding and difficult jobs out there. In fact, parenting can be totally confounding. You can’t just apply standard protocol because each child is different. And each parent is different, too.
We have found that one of the most common struggles parents share is knowing how to de-escalate parenting power struggles and de-stress after they’ve resolved.
Rebellion is a normal part of a child’s development. They must challenge boundaries and expectations in order to develop healthy ones. But this isn’t an easy process for parents. What often begin as simple disagreements or disappointments can escalate into big blowouts. It’s difficult to know how to recover from high-stress moments. Here are a few examples of seemingly mundane requests that can turn into emotional struggles.
What happens when you ask your child to …
- … clean their room
- … turn off the T.V.
- … stop playing a game
- … come to dinner
- … finish their dinner
- … brush their teeth
- … take out the trash
Is there gnashing of teeth? Is there chronic procrastination? Do you have to ask ten times and finding yourself saying things like, “You could have gotten it done by now!”
One of our colleagues recounts feeling totally traumatized by the endeavor of cleaning her room as a child. Her mother would say, “You have to clean your room before you play,” and she would think, “Ok, yeah.” Then, she would open her bedroom door and think, “How will I ever get this done?” She would become completely overwhelmed by the daunting task of putting things away. She just didn’t know how to get started. So, she would often choose to keep a messy room over playing, and this decision would lead to endless power struggles with her mother.
We wonder, what would have happened if a parent had helped her put her things away? What if somebody had worked with her to make sense of how to get started?
For chores like this, working together can be a huge help in preventing struggles from the beginning. But what about the other items? You can’t exactly “turn off the T.V.” together. Sometimes, missing the end of a T.V. show can feel like the end of the world to your child. Even though, to us, it might be difficult to relate, it’s helpful to keep that in mind when reasoning with a kiddo who’s glued to the T.V., using reassuring language about not missing out can really help.
But what if it doesn’t? And what if it leads to a shouting match and hurt feelings? This is an extremely stressful and all-too-common experience. So, how do you recover?
Often, the same things that help kids feel better after events like this actually help parents feel better too. Here are some things you can do together to recover and move on.
Tips to recover from parenting power struggles
- Play. Try playing a simple game together after emotions have cooled.
- Make. Create something together. Working cooperatively on a project can be very healing. How about a baking project? Or a craft?
- Move. Take a walk. Does your child love identifying flowers or trees? Take a walk around the block and let them rattle off their names. They will feel smart, and you will feel proud knowing that they will probably dominate trivia when they get older.
- Love. Say, “I love you.” Saying, “I love you,” even when you’re stressed, upset, and resentful, can be totally disarming … for everyone involved. Give it a try!
- Share. Share your feelings. Telling your child, simply, how it makes you feel when they get angry with you. It can help them relate their action with your reaction and develop understanding.
- Connect. Have a cuddle. There’s nothing more calming than human touch. OK, we know not every kiddo is going to respond to this, but if your child is a cuddler, you might give this a try.
Some of you parents might want to cool down and recover alone. That’s OK! After a little time spent reassuring your child, how about some you-time? What about a bath? A relaxing podcast? A lighthearted catch-up call with an old friend? A workout?
We understand that some of these tactics might seem impossible. Maybe you’re a single parent. Maybe your child struggles deeply to manage their emotions and behaviors. For some of you, a solo walk or uninterrupted bath seems like a dream. If you’re having trouble figuring out ways to heal together and take care of you after parenting power struggles, we would love to help.