Avoiding Power Struggles Is Simpler Than You Think

The power of asking sincere questions

We all want to avoid power struggles with our kids. The tantrums can be exhausting. Asking sincere questions, even with small kids, is a great way to redirect defiance and, most importantly, to build wisdom and responsibility in our children.

Asking sincere questions to avoid power struggles

Here’s how one parent experienced the difference between making demands and asking questions with her child:

We were getting ready to leave the house, and I told Matthew it was time to go potty before we headed out the door. He began to protest, whine, and even throw himself on the floor. I told him again that it was time to go potty, and the same thing happened. 

Clearly this wasn’t going anywhere, so I stepped back to assess what was happening. I knew there must be a better way to handle this. 

Teaching wisdom instead of making demands

I remembered the Connected Families principle about how important it is to teach wisdom rather than just make demands. So I tried again. 

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: What might happen if you don’t go potty before we leave?

Matthew: I might have an accident.

Me: What happens when you have an accident?

Matthew: I get all wet.

Me: Do you like that feeling of being wet and cold?

Matthew: No.

Instead of giving orders, stop and ask questions that help your child identify and compare his options.

Me: Okay.

I could’ve proceeded to ask more questions like, ‘If you don’t like to be wet, then what would be a good choice to make?’, but instead I just left it alone. I figured he would probably end up going potty before we left, but if he didn’t and did have an accident, it would be a natural impact that he’d learn from.

Teaching children to think for themselves

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Instead of giving orders, stop and ask questions that help your child identify and compare his options. When we are able to slow down and ask thoughtful questions, children learn to think for themselves and come to better understand cause and effect. And, as our kids learn to better understand cause and effect, they progress more effectively through life.

avoid power struggles

This mom reported that Matthew soon stopped whining and within minutes went in to go potty. He still didn’t want to take off his jammies and be cold. She agreed with him that she doesn’t like to be cold either and he seemed to like that she understood and connected with him about that.

Asking thoughtful questions instead of making demands often defuses power struggles, and teaches our children wisdom and responsibility. It’s amazing!  

Apply It Now:

  1. What is a typical power struggle you often have with your child?
  2. What could be some thoughtful questions you could ask to help her identify her options?
  3. What questions would help her discover the impact of each choice on her and others involved?

Want to learn more? Check out the podcast that compliments this article for more ideas.


In our newest online course The Power of Questions: Less Arguing. More Wisdom. you will learn the art of asking questions that build internal wisdom and character in your kids, and create a culture of teamwork in your family. Join us today!

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