Managing The ‘Power Struggle’

By Step by Step Consulting

What are Power Struggles?

A power struggle is when a child refuses to do something and the adult continues to insist on the child doing it. The longer it goes on, the less likely the child is to actually complete what was originally asked of them.


Here are some steps to aim to prevent power struggles:


There are steps adults can take to increase the effectiveness of their instructions. For example, stating expectations clearly and making your requests calmly.When possible, offer two choices. Just make sure you’re ok with either choice. For example, if you want your child to do his homework and he’s playing lego, say, “Would you rather do homework now or do you want to wait for five more minutes?” Either choice will get the homework done. But for some kids, it can seem like a victory to be able to wait for 5 more minutes and like they are having a say in their day.

Get your child involved in deciding the routine for morning/ after school/ the day

If they have say, they will feel more empowered and will enjoy having choice about the order of events happening. Also, you can use the ‘first then’ approach. ‘First, homework, then lefo, First dinner, then 15 mins of Tv’.

Plan ahead

Prepare for transitions. Let them know how much time is left. Allow time for down time too as having too much going on or too much activities being decided by another person may lead to a power struggle.

Avoid back and forth comments and withdraw

If your child is upset or annoyed, it is ok to withdraw from the situation and allow them to calm down. Once they are calm, you can engage again. Getting into a back and forth is likely only escalating the situation and is not beneficial for anyone.