COVID Stage 4: Survival of the Parent Child Relationship
The Power Struggle
There is no doubt that Stage 4 restrictions has the opportunity to bring out the very worst in all of us. We are tired, frustrated, worried and overwhelmed...and that is just us parents.
It is more likely now more than ever that you will find yourself engaging in the Power Struggle.
You are more likely to have a shorter fuse and may even find yourself snapping at your gorgeous offspring. There is nothing like the shrill sound of “You’re not the boss of me” to trigger your response, which may very likely be “Oh yes I am”.
You have to recognise your own triggers:
Why? Because if you don’t the same behaviour will continue from you and then your child will match it. Emotions are as contagious as nits. Your child will mirror your emotions. When you are more likely to lose it then your child will ride that escalation and meet you at every level.
So where do these triggers come from?
In my experience, underneath anger there is always another emotion or fear hiding. Often as parents it is fears about our own ability to parent, or that feeling of helplessness. The sorts of thoughts that are often behind your triggers may include
You don’t respect me
Now is not the time for this
You don’t appreciate me
I really don’t know what I’m meant to do
I can’t cope
I am expecting more from you that you are able to do
What are the answers?
1. Give them some control:
Okay you may said “WHAT!!” out loud, but trust me this does work. Children don’t like to feel manipulated and powerless…either do we. So don’t take away all their control, give them some choice. This is often called “forced choice”. Instead of insisting that bath time is right this minute state “you can choose to have your bath now or after your show is finished”. “I’m not eating that” and reply with “which plate do you want” or for older children “you can choose dessert”.
2. Is it really worth the fight?:
This relates back to the idea of triggers. What are your beliefs as a parent? These beliefs will dictate your behaviour and at times when we lose sight of those values find ourselves losing it over minute things. It is okay to let your child cope with the natural consequences to help them learn. So what if they don’t put their jacket on?… they will get cold…they won’t die and perhaps next time they may think of putting it on.
Parents chasing children with drink bottles and then telling them off for forgetting it. If you child does not have a drink bottle by their side 24/7 they will not dehydrate.
These two examples may relate to your belief that you’re not doing your job as a parent if your child is not warm and hydrated at all times.
What do you really value as a parent? Your child to be kind, helpful and know when they need to give you your space. So if your child wants to wear a weather inappropriate fairy costume when you go out or refuses to take off those hideous slippers…then let it go…sometimes it is not worth the fight.
Problem Solve Together;
Often the power struggles between child and parent have a consistent theme. What we have for dinner, screen time, bedtime or not recognising the time when they need to give you space.
So, if you take the time to reflect on what your triggers are and where there needs to be some boundaries and solutions you can have a plan that will actually work. But it will only work if you talk about these with them.
If you know you get triggered by the fear that your children will never get into bed:
Sit down and write up a visual plan with them.
Acknowledge that they don’t want to go to bed when you tell them but set up bedtime schedules that are different for weekdays and weekends.
Ask what they would like to do at bedtime, watch an episode of something, play UNO.
Let them know that you need to have your quiet time and when they follow the plan you will be rewarded just before bedtime the next night….that way they are more likely to adhere
Reducing power struggles is not about having your child do everything you ask them to do all the time. Having your child obey every time will make them feel controlled and will lead to rebellion and poor relationships in the future. Work out your triggers, give them some choice, let the little things go and work out problems together.