The Struggle for Control: Who’s in Charge Here?
Do you have a master negotiator at home—a child who likes to control every conversation and tries to change the rules to suit his needs? If so, you may be stuck in the cycle of frequent, exhausting parent-child power struggles.
Kids who crave control may fight parents on everything: daily routines, food choices, play dates, and more. They may be rigid thinkers who expect that everyone will conform to their rules, ideas, and plans. If you give such children a choice between A and B, they will most likely choose option C. They can be quite creative, intense, and persistent!
Sometimes when a child fights for control, some parents respond by automatically becoming more rigid. More extreme consequences are imposed, and the child feels less and less control over the outcome. When this happens, negative behaviors may escalate into full-scale meltdowns.
So how can you work with your child to keep him or her from ruling the roost and avoid those big tantrums? Here are some tips.
3 tips to manage control-craving kids:
- Create predictable routines because s/he may not cope well without structure.
- Choose your battles. Ask yourself if you are a control-craving parent.
- Give choices when possible. And if a choice isn’t possible, that’s fine! Find a way to acknowledge your child’s difficulty accepting your final decision.
3 tips to avoid explosive tantrums:
- Validate your child’s experience. What does the world look like from his or her point of view?
- Do some detective work. When your child has a meltdown, what event or request triggered the reaction? Do the meltdowns happen during transition times, bedtimes, or a play date?
- Teach positive strategies that your child can implement next time. There’s no need to spend too much time fixating on what just happened. Move on, and help your child build skills s/he can use when faced with a similar challenge tomorrow (or an hour from now).
Children, like adults, want to be respected. They want people to understand their behaviors. They need skills, taught by patient, emotion-neutral, caring adults. These life skills include developing anger management strategies, building resiliency, coping with disappointment, and solving problems creatively. These skills are not innate; they must be taught. Invest time in supporting the development of these skills, and you will reap the benefits for years to come.
Need some parenting support to help with your child? Contact us for a consultation tailored to your particular situation.
Heidi Emberling, MA, is an early childhood educator and child development specialist at Parents Place on the Peninsula.