What Causes Power Struggles and How Can I Stop Them?

Recently CF co-founder Lynne Jackson sat down with Chad Hayenga, one of CF’s Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, to get his take on a common parenting issue: power struggles.


Click the image above to watch the full video. (If you can’t see the image, click here to go to the video.) The full video transcript is here. Below are some highlights from the discussion.

What’s going on in a power struggle?

How do you know when you’ve gotten yourself into a power struggle with your child?

There are a couple key indicators, but the primary one is that as parents we feel really angry about our child’s behavior. For example, when kids demand our attention, our feeling might be “You’re driving me crazy, child!” and we’re feeling annoyed about that. But when we’re talking about power, it’s more this sense of “You’re going to do what I say!” And we’re trying to control that behavior.

It’s like I’ve got a goal, but it gets blocked by my child’s opposing goal, so we both end up feeling angry because anger is about a blocked goal.

Healthy vs. hurtful power

We all as adults and kids need to have some sense of power and control in our lives. As parents, we recognize that there’s healthy control and that there’s hurtful control, or hurtful power. What we want to do is to help our kids get set up to be in that healthy kind of power, because if they have no sense of personal power in their life, they’re more subject to bullying, intimidation, and being controlled in an unhealthy way. So giving our child a healthy sense of power is really a significant gift to them as well.

Tots & Teens

Chad also shares some really fantastic stories of power struggles he and his wife de-fused with their two-year-old and then teen-aged daughter. Make sure you check out the video or read the transcript to hear his great examples.

Apply It Now:

What is the most common power struggle pattern in your family? How could you use these principles to defuse the situation and give your child a healthy sense of power instead of an unhealthy one?

Want help implementing these principles with your family? Check out our coaching options!

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