Taming Power Struggles

with Kathy Salazar April 29, 2010

#1 The Power of Choice
There is power in choice. The more choices you have, the greater sense of personal power you experience. The fewer opportunities for choice that you have, the weaker your sense of personal power, whether you are a child or an adult.

Giving children choices increases their decision-making ability and gives them an opportunity to exercise the power that is available to them. As they perceive and act on the choices they have, their perception of themselves as able and empowered individuals increases.

Example: “Do you prefer toast or an English muffin this morning?”
The key here is that you, the parent, have no investment or preference in the child’s answer. Either choice you offer must be acceptable to you – regardless of which choice your child makes.

#2 Shared Control in Parenting – using ‘controlled’ or ‘limited’ choice
Controlled choice is preferred to unlimited choice. When choices aren’t limited, children often feel overwhelmed and can have difficulty deciding.
Example of unlimited choice: “You can have whatever cereal is on the shelf”.
Example of limited or controlled choice: “Cheerios or Rice Krispies are the choices for today.”

Limited Choice is an example of Shared Control in parenting: You have control because you control the number of choices. Your child has control because he gets to pick from the choices offered. Both parent and child have increased sense of personal power. Children are given the opportunity to practice decision making.

#3 Redirect behavior resulting from a child’s inappropriate choice by using these three steps:
1. State the problem, basically state what you see
2. Say, “Please make a different choice.”
3. Observe the different choice the child makes.
Example A: “When you choose to go out of turn it spoils the game for everyone. Please make a different choice”. Observe the “different choice” made.
Example B: “That loud voice is distracting to me. I want you to make a different choice,” is a respectful way to communicate your discomfort with the noise level. Observe the ‘different choice’ made.
Repeat as needed.

#4 Use the important words ‘choose’, ‘decide’ and ‘pick’ to teach children that they are in control of their own behavior, feelings and attitudes.
"I noticed you decided to be fired up today!”
“How come you picked your grumpy mood this morning?”
“How did you decide to act when your coach pulled you from the game?”

Final thought:
From Parent Talk: The Language of Responsible Parenting
by Chick Moorman:

“Your child’s ability to make choices begins with your decision
to offer them. You can select ‘parent talk’ that
offers and/or notices choices or not. It’s your choice.”

I invite you to join me at my next forum session, Thursday, June 17 which will pick up where “Taming Power Struggles” left off with, “Creating a Culture of Accountability”. If you have questions regarding the above follow-up, please bring them to the forum!! And let's have some 'Parent Talk'!
Kathy Salazar