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Avoiding power struggles

"Sometimes it's the smallest decisions that can change your life forever." Keri Russell, Actress


Kids love to have a bit of control. As a child, or a tween or a teen, they need to feel like there's some wiggle room in their life. We on the other hand are trying to run an efficient home and would quite like them to gladly take our commands and trust us that we know what's best. Thus, the story of childhood can be:

brush your teeth, put your coat on , get in the car, eat up, settle down, wait! go! make your lunch, put your shoes away, clear your room, hurry up, slow down, be back by..., get up by..., don't be late, put your phone away, speak nicely...

All fair commands. But when their days are full of commands they can begin to feel a little herded. Of course there's a place for them, but what if we just replaced a few commands with some choices instead? - places in the day where they could have a little freedom over their lives?

I don't mean dropping all appropriate authority, I just mean giving them a little wiggle room, defaulting to choices over commands.

  • Would you like to brush your teeth or put your pyjamas on first?

  • It feels cold today, would you like to go out with a coat or a jumper?

  • We're leaving in five minutes, is there anything you'd like to bring with you?

  • Would you like to take the bin out now or after dinner?

Sound tedious? Well, yes, things will take a little longer. But children will begin to realise they have options not just limitations and they will begin to:

  • feel more responsible

  • feel less constrained

  • have less need to contest you

  • And, in time, they will have less need to struggle for power!

There are many words in a day and many days in a childhood and if half of the commands became options, they would be hearing a very different message:

  • I trust you

  • I'd like to know your preferences

  • I accept your choices

  • You have freedom

The fewer areas we leave ourselves for rebellion, the more space we leave for connection.


"It's a mighty act of human love to remind people that they can accomplish things for themselves." Elizabeth Gilbert, Author

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