Don't Get Hooked Into a Power Struggle Lifestyle

By Foster Cline

Say the words "power struggle" and every parent can relate. Much of our time and energy is spent on resolving power struggles with our kids. Wouldn't it just be a lot easier to avoid them in the first place?

When kids have serious medical issues and other special needs, power struggles can become elevated to the point of desperation. Parents can easily get hooked into a power struggle lifestyle with their special needs child that can, in some cases, become life-threatening.

So let's figure out why our special needs child engages us in power struggles. Some reasons are "kid driven":

- Obviously chronic pain or discomfort leads most of us to be more difficult to be around.
- The lack of control caused by being physically different or sick causes kids (and many adults) to show their need for control at times by being demanding themselves.
- Ill or otherwise disabled children who can't enjoy a lot of the freedoms and options available to other kids often feel like "life's unfair" and can easily slip into the victim role (and most people who feel victimized aren't easy to live with!).

Most of these problems can be handled by parents who show understanding and who talk the problem over with encouragement, acceptance, and if required, a strong dose of taking good care of ourselves. In a very shortened example, a parent might say something along these lines:

- Understanding and acceptance: "Gosh, honey, I know you must feel just awful"
- Exploration: "Tell me about what you are struggling with."
- Encouragement: "I bet you are really proud of the way you cope day in and day out with your health challenges."

And if the complaining appears to be becoming a SOP (standard operating procedure):
"Sweetheart, where do you think you could go to complain where it wouldn't be contagious other folks?"

Some reasons for power struggles are "parent driven":

- Parents often become more demanding when treatment regimens are absolutely necessary.
-Human nature says that when one demands, the other resists!
- Parents may give more demands and fewer choices.
- Pleading parents raise whiney children; guilty-feeling parents raise blaming children.
- Parents who consistently show frustration raise children who are consistently frustrating.

All of these reasons for negative behavior require parents to look at themselves. That can be tough. But it would be nice if the reasons for our children's snarky-ness were due to our parenting styles, personality or shortcomings because that's something that is under our control.

The easiest and quickest way for us to approach this problem (if we parents can bear the feedback) is to approach a friend who has great children our own child's age and ask directly:
"Dillon seems to be giving me quite a bit of trouble lately. You've been around us. Do you see ways that I could be more effective with him? Do I have any personality issues that you see that could be getting in the way?"

Be honest and explore the answers you get. Power struggles are often the same underlying issue being played out over and over again. Understanding our own role in the "power struggle pattern" is an important first step in learning how to avoid them.

Dr. Foster Cline is a child psychiatrist, author, and co-founder of Love and Logic. Lisa Greene is the mother of two children with cystic fibrosis and a parent coach. Dr. Cline and Lisa are co-authors of "Parenting Children with Health Issues: Essential Tools, Tips and Tactics for Raising Kids with Chronic Illness, Medical Conditions and Special Healthcare Needs".

For free audio, articles and other resources, visit

Article Source:

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home