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Everyone has a need for control and a sense of ownership over their days and lives- even children! You have seen it when your toddler demands a drink from the blue cup instead of the yellow one you just gave them, or when you ask your teenager to put their dirty plate in the dishwasher and they react like you have said they can never have their phone again.
This control battle and power struggle is extremely common and is often a hot topic during our parent consultations. Power struggles often occur when both parent and child are determined to have their way- and neither has any intention of backing down. They are natural and are a part of child development. To spin it positively, it is your child’s way of exploring their independence and testing boundaries.
However, our goal is to strike a balance and find a way to give your child a sense of control, while also maintaining boundaries and limits. Here are some of our top tips to support your child with this:
Lots of Choice
Imagine a day where you had no choice or decision making around your day? What if I told you that you must do exactly as I say for a day? That you must get up at 7.15 am, wear a uniform, do your hair the way I want it, eat breakfast when it is put on the table and leave the house when I am ready- how would you feel? So much of a kid’s day is already decided for them. We all have a routine, structure that we follow to make sure that we get out the door in time, but for some children the lack of decisions and choices can lead to push back.
To help your child with this, as much as possible, offer two choices. Just make sure you are ok with either choice. For example, if you want your child to do their homework and they are busy playing say, “Do you want to do homework now or in 5 minutes?” or “do you want to do spellings or maths first?” Either choice will get the homework done.
This strategy can be embedded throughout your child’s day “do you want to eat with a fork or spoon?”, “Do you want to sit beside me or your sister?”, “Do you want to get ready for bed upstairs or downstairs?” In all these examples, the end behaviour is the same. It seems like an obvious and simple question to ask, but for lots of kids, it is a victory for them to be able to have a say in their day!
Teamwork, Makes the Dream Work
By this we mean, get your child involved in their day! They will enjoy having a choice about the order of events happening and are less likely to push back. When a child is involved in the decision-making process, they are much more likely to join in with no fuss!
This is an awesome tool to have in your tool kit. This is known as the “first, then” approach. In all examples, the first is the request or demand from the parent and the then is the super fun part! This works by placing a lower probability behaviour (parental demand) before a higher probability behaviour (screen time). In this case, screen time can only be gotten when the “first” part is complete. For example, “First homework, then Lego”, “first get dressed, then screen time”.
Key to this success is following through and being consistent! This means if your child does their homework or gets dressed that you must stick with your word and give them “then” part. This will establish rapport and trust!
Transitions are often the most difficult part of a child’s day. I mean who wants to leave the playground? Who wants to leave granny’s?
Plan and prepare for these transitions. Let your child know how much time is left. If your child must leave somewhere preferred, place it on a first/then “first we leave the playground, then we will do X at home”.
If your child is refusing, defiant or engaging in difficult behaviour daily, get in touch and we can arrange a 1:1 consultation to put strategies in place to support your little one!
Contact us here https://stepbystepconsulting.ie/pages/contact-us