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30. Book Review -- Unplugging Power Struggles

Book Title: Unplugging Power Struggles: Resolving Emotional Battles With Your Kids

AuthorJan Faull, M.Ed

Year of Publication2000

PublisherParenting Press Inc.


Author’s Web-site

Full Book Available inEnglish

You should read this book if you…

Want to learn how to not get in power struggles with your kids.

“In a nut shell”…

This book deals with day to day issues parents have with children such as chores, bedtime, homework or cleaning up “power struggles.” It’s a great book: a quick and interesting read, easy to understand and to the point with many clear examples.

Key Ideas…

Giving choices

When you offer your child a choice, make sure you can live with either option.

Children must live with the responsibility of their choices. For example, your daughter may sign up for swimming, then decide she does not want to swim. It’s important for her to live with the decision until the end of the season.

Guide children through a series of choices that lead to competency. Ask questions and offer choices that will allow your child to succeed.

Power struggles you will always lose

Children are in control of many behaviors including eating, sleeping, and attitude. You can provide healthy foods, but if the child refuses to eat, you cannot force him. And, you will not be able to force your child to sleep. You cannot control a child’s attitude about a situation but you can set limits on the behavior.

Communicating unconditional love to your child

Say I love you and give hugs, back scratches and massages. Another technique is focusing on your child with good eye contact and loving looks. It is important to enter your child’s activities and follow their lead (not trying to compete or instruct the type of play). Notice when your child comes and goes in and out of a room or when he or she comes or leaves home.

Accept a child’s feelings without trying to change it

You can empathize but curb any negative behavior. For example, a child is jealous of their younger sister and pinches her. It is ok to say, “I understand you are jealous of your baby sister, but I cannot allow you to pinch her.”

Help your child out

It is good to set up responsibility, but if a child is stressed about something, for example, losing their homework, it is ok to help them find it. Use the situation as a learning experience.

Action Steps…

“When you must say no, say yes to something else.” For example, you may say no for your son to go to the park alone with a friend, but if he asks if he can cook a macaroni casserole, even though it may cause a big mess, say yes! This way, it satisfies his need for independence.

“Offer choices, negotiate, or compromise on the fly.” For example, a child does not want to wear her shoes to school. You can offer the option of picking between two pairs of shoes…if that does not work, then you can offer the option of either going to school with something on your feet or nothing at all. In the example, the daughter was a bit embarrassed being dropped off to school with no shoes on, so she quickly put them on.

“Develop an incentive program providing a choice to work, or not work, for a reward”. For example, your child wants a Lego space ship, but is not doing his chores. You can offer the space ship as a reward for doing his choices. However, an incentive program is used for a limited amount of time. Once the habit is set into a pattern, the reward system is phased out. You also need to be matter of fact on the days the child chooses not to the chore or work. You can offer a friendly reminder, but do not become emotionally involved in the child choosing not to do the work.

“Offer choices that lead to different consequences”. For example, dad wants three boys to put away their school gear when they came home. Dad would yell at them from another room to put their school stuff away. They would ignore him. Then, dad would angrily come into the room later and put their school gear away. So, dad set a rule, that the TV would remain off and the refrigerator would remain closed until the school gear was put away. He explained the rules and the reasons. The two younger boys quickly complied. The oldest was angry, but with dad being consistent, the oldest boy complied after a few days.

“Reach a compromise through formal negotiations”. Some power struggles need to go through a formal negotiation with the family members involved. The problem needs to be clearly identified, notes need to be taken, ideas need to be thought of and reviewed. And finally, the idea needs to be decided and tried.


“Power struggles are emotional battles between parents and children over who is in control…Your job is to teach, train, influence, to keep your children safe, healthy, teach them values, and guide them until they are old enough to guide themselves. Children, on the other hand, are included toward independence; they wish to supervise themselves. The natural tension between these two positions can result in an emotional battle of wills that is a power struggle” Pg 7.

“Parents need to strike a balance. Turning too many choices and decisions over to children becomes permissiveness. This is the “Do whatever you like” approach to parenting. It tells children you don’t have the interest or energy to care about what they do. You avoid permissiveness by holding onto control in areas of safety and health and dearly held family values…When you allow and encourage your child to make some little choices and decisions that are important to them, self esteem builds at a healthy rate” Pg 18-19.

Statistics and Interesting Facts…

Some parents in powerful positions at work think (wrongly) they can manage their kids in the same and often dictatorial way.

Parents who feel they have little power can become controlling of their physical behavior and can end up in emotional power struggles. For example, a mother who has a dominating husband may turn to dominate her children.  Pg 94-94

Perfectionist parents feel the need to control behavior that deviates from the parent’s standards or point of view. For example, parents will not allow a child to wear clothes that do not match.

Parents who often have unrealistic expectations of their children’s behavior or what they can achieve can also end up in power struggles.

How this has changed my parenting…

I really enjoyed this book. It has helped me realize when I am in a power struggle. It has helped me understand why my children need control and power at times. It is good to know it is ok to hold on sometimes and at times it is ok to let go of a situation.

© 2011 The Family Project

Related Topics: Christian Home, Mothers, Fathers, Parenting, Book Review, Parent Resources

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