Responding to Kids So That You Invite Cooperation, Not Power Struggles

Why do simple requests you make to your kids sometimes turn into power struggles? For example, you’ve asked your child to put on her shoes before you take her to school. Instead of cooperating she stamps her feet saying “No, I don’t want to wear shoes!”

Although you’ve made a reasonable request, your child is not complying. Any time you try to control your child’s behavior, you set yourself up for a possible power struggle.

Increasing the Odds Your Child Will Cooperate

One way to invite cooperation is to give your child some control in the situation. Instead of telling your child to get her shoes on, you could ask “Do you want to put on your red tennis shoes or your black dressy shoes?” If there is only one appropriate pair of shoes, you could give her a choice of whether to put them on in the house or in the car.

Another way to increase cooperation is to announce what you are going to do, not what she has to do. Saying something like “I’m going to put on my shoes and then I’ll wait for you in the car. Come when you’re ready.” This works well if you’re not in a rush and can relax in the car with a good book or music.

Sticking with Your Answer Without Arguing

Let’s consider another situation where your son has asked you if he can have a cookie. You’ve told him that dinner is soon and he can have a cookie after dinner but not right now. He complained “You never let me have anything I want!”

The responses below will fuel a power struggle because they encourage him to further discuss why he should be allowed to have a cookie.

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