Avoid Power Struggle with Your Child

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

When I hear about a hate crime, I always think about what might have happened in the life of the perpetrator who "dedicated" his or her life to hate an individual or a group. We all "hate" someone or something now and then, but why do some people make a career out of hating people of a particular orientation, color or creed? The life of a hater could not be very desirable. So they look for an adrenaline rush. Hate provides that "rush" to career-haters and they get hooked on it. The anger and hate that fills their heart grew from their past. They have no ideas how and why it is there. So they must find some target or some channel for it, that is, a person or persons they can hate. The hater might say, "The reason I feel so mad is because of them. If they would just disappear or go some place, I would be all right."

Some people grow into adulthood with a lot of shame, anger, bitterness and hate. They look for other people who can join them in hating somebody with an equal fervor. If there is a political, religious or social ideology that can justify their rage, even better. Then they can really feel righteous about their violent feelings and actions. Since misery loves company, they love the people who can make them feel paranoid and "show" them who is robbing them of their happiness, peace and prosperity.

Children get mad now and then and in those moments they may hate the people they love. In the normal circumstance, hate is a short-lived emotion and is easily brushed aside by the preponderance of love and contentment. But, if we look into the past of "career haters" we may often find that as children they were abused and oppressed and felt powerless in the face of the tyranny of thoughtless adults. One day, in anger and hate, they found their own power and discovered that as long as they hated someone, they didn't have to feel the hurt. More and more children are growing up in today's world who hate themselves and others. They want someone to pay dearly for the hurt they have received in their lives.

What should parents do so their children don't harbor excessive hate or malice against them or others? We all know that abuse, neglect, humiliation, or shame can cause a deep-seated hatred. What about the coercive force and abuse of power that many parents unwittingly get engaged in with their children? That, too, may cause deep seated hate and malice.

A power struggle may develop when a parent has the attitude, "I will make you do what you ought to and I will use force if I have to." The child resists. So ,the parent uses more force. Kathryn Kvols, author of the book, "Redirecting Children's Behaviors," says that parental force may take one or more of the following forms: shaming; threatening; taunting; yelling; nagging; intimidation; humiliation; slapping and other forms of physical punishment.

Coercive power may work for a short while but in the long run it fails and costs too much. Coercive force prevents children from acknowledging their own responsibility. They learn to blame others for their mistakes and unhappiness. Avoid such power struggle. Behave in such a way that your child begins to respect your desires. Kathryn Kvols suggests several ways to avoid power struggle with your child and win his or her respect.

    1. Use friendly action. Example: You ask your child to pick up the backpack. The child says, "in a minute," but he doesn't. So, put a smile on your face, keep the backpack close to your child and walk away. Don't stand there to see whether the child puts it away or not.
    2. Don't nag. Use one word rather than ten. Example of nagging. "Why do I always have to remind you to put away your clothes? What do you think I am? Your maid? Just use one word, "Clothes." Make sure you say it in a friendly voice and with a smile.
    3. Give them appropriate power and authority for decision making. For example, let them make the menu for the week, choose their chores and the place for the next picni.
    4. Use win-win negotiation to resolve a conflict. Tell your child, "I want you to win. How can I win, too?" When children see that you are interested in seeing them win, they are more willing to cooperate and go the extra mile to see you win too.
    5. Understand that sometime they are not trying to drive you crazy. They are simply thinking of their need for satisfaction and some space from you. Don't view it necessarily as a rebellion against your authority.
    6. Give positive attention to your child. Sometime, just "hang" with your child. Pay 100% attention to what your children say without giving advice, correcting or trying to teach them something.
    7. Don't attack the child's self-worth. Inappropriate behavior does not make the child "bad." When you point out the inappropriate behavior, affirm that you love your child.

Remember, positive attention and relationship is a requirement for eliciting compliance.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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