Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Post from Proactive Parenting

Wow, I guess I'm a little blog happy tonight trying to catch up after crazy Chemistry finals. Here is another great article from Proactive Parenting that I wish I had read this morning. My day would have gone a whole lot easier!

Power Struggles: Once it begins how do I stop it?It can happen anywhere and at anytime. A child screams his demands and his parent feels overwhelmed, embarrassed or angry. Mom increases the intensity of her reaction because she knows what’s coming—a power struggle. Her son wants to be heard so he continues the negotiating and arguing. Now both parent and child are loudly trying to make their point and a power struggle has begun.• Why doesn’t the arguing and negotiating stop when a parent says, “stop it now”?

The short answer is your child is still learning and your reaction is one of the things teaching him.

When a parent increases the intensity of her reaction to stop a power struggle it can scare a child. Toddlers and preschoolers tend to revert back to a slightly younger age when they are really emotional. A parent’s big reaction can push a wee one over the edge emotionally causing a power struggle to get bigger or to morph right into a frightened tantrum. The other thing that could happen is due to immature understanding; a young preschooler can view a parent’s reaction as a form of teaching. They may misinterpret your reaction as “Oh, so this is how you’re supposed to behave” and then they model your behavior right back at you.

• Warning
This idea is not intended to stop power struggles from ever happening again. Power struggles will come back again. It’s how children push the envelope so they can learn the boundaries in different situations. Power struggles happen because a child has hit the end of his rope verbally, physically or emotionally and isn’t mature enough to know how to handle his big feelings and express himself respectfully at the same time, not yet. So he uses arguing and negotiating as his method of communication.

• How to drop your end of a power struggleSince your child is young and learning from everything around him, you need to make the first change. How? Mom and dad can back out of the power struggle by going silent for 10-60 seconds. It’s that simple and that powerful. The silence is not to be used as a punishment and it shouldn’t go on any longer than it takes for your child to recognize there’s been a change in your reaction. As long as the silence isn’t punitive it quickly becomes more powerful than the arguing. It sends the message, “I hear you and I’m no longer willing to argue with you.”

• Your first reaction after reading that may be, “doesn’t that mean I’m letting him get away with disrespectful behavior?” No, actually it’s quite the opposite.
Parental silence captures his attention and he realizes, “She’s not giving me what I want when I argue.” And since he’s emotionally out of control your silence shows him that you’re calm and in control and he’s comforted by that. He also senses that pleading, arguing and negotiating has to stop.

• You need to explain why you’ve gone silent or it will either confuse him or cause a bigger fuss. As soon as you realize you’re in a power struggle go silent for 10-60 seconds.

THEN Explain, “I will not be talking until you stop arguing.” Notice the short preschool level statement. THEN As he begins arguing again—go silent. He will try to argue with you again to see if you’re serious. Repeating instructions is key as you do this tip. Repeat this process as many times as needed the first one-five times you try this. So the next time you find yourself arguing with a 3 yr old or older—go silent for 10-60 seconds, take a few deep breaths and wait for your child to get calmer before you talk. Then follow your heart as you help him learn about your family’s rules and resolve the situation.

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