Children Listening – Limiting Power Struggles

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 16,433
    Childcare Expert Patti Cancellier discusses limiting power struggles with children.

    Patti Cancellier: Hi, I'm Patti Cancellier, the Education Coordinator and Parent Educator for the Parent Encouragement Program. I'm talking about why children don't listen and now, I'll discuss other ways to limit power struggles between you and your child. I'm going to talk about some other ways to express your request or limit, that are less likely to trigger a power struggle with a child, and therefore are more or likely to be heard and considered by the child. This language can be almost magical and encouraging your child to do, what needs to be done.

    So the first way is called Grandma's rule, which is that we do our work before we play. Now if you're already modeling this value in your home, you're a way ahead of the game. But even if you aren't, you can still put this skill to use whenever there is work to be done. So here is an example, it's your child's job to feed the family dog before dinner. When you walk over to the dinner table, you notice an empty dog dish and an anxious looking dog. Instead of issuing a threat such as, if you don't feed that dog, you can forget about eating dinner. You'll let the child know that he is expected to do his work first, and then take care of his own needs. By saying, when the dog is fed then you may join us at dinner. There are something about the when-then phrasing, particularly when it's delivered in our firm but friendly voice. That implies of course you'll have a dinner, as soon as the dog is fed. When we threaten, if you don't, you'll never; we're actually posing a challenge to our child and he will resist doing it, just to see if we will follow through.

    There is another way to state a limit in the form of a choice that he works for situations, where a child wants to do something that isn't appropriate here, but it may be okay somewhere else. For example, family members are sitting in the family room doing quiet activities like reading or homework. Your child walks into the room and playing a kazoo that she received as a party favor that day. Now clearly, the noise from the kazoo is disruptive to the quiet activities. So you walk up to her, get her attention and give her the following choice. Honey! Either you may stay here and do something quiet with us, or you may play the kazoo in your room or outside. It's up to you, you decide. You're making it clear that the limit is on loud activities in the family room and at the same time, you're letting her know that playing the kazoo is fine, when it's done somewhere that doesn't interfere with others' rights.

    A word of warning, some children will choose to stay in the room with you, and do what you're doing until you return to your activity, and at that point they'll start doing the disruptive activity again. When that happens don't remind them of the limit, get up put your arm around their shoulder, and walk them toward the area designated for the disruptive activity. They'll argue and insist they won't do it anymore, but don't give them just continue to walk them to the other room in as friendly manner as you possibly can.

    So we've talked about ways to phrase your request or limit, the when-then statement for situations when we do our work before we play, and the either-or statement for upholding a limit in one situation but giving the opportunity to continue the activity where it won't interfere with others that cause harm to people or belongings.

    Next, I'll discuss the importance of not repeating your request and following through on your words.