Avoiding Power Struggles

As a parent, it's your job to set limits. But how do you do that and manage to avoid power struggles?

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In setting limits for your child, it is important to be firm but equally important to be reasonable. You are the parent and you are in charge, of course, but that does not give you license to bully. Battles over control can often be avoided, leaving your child feeling valued and respected and leaving you with an acceptable outcome. Here are a few tricks to keep in mind as you work to achieve this.

  • Don't ask "yes" or "no" questions or offer open options. Asking, "What do you want to wear today?" will only get you a room strewn with clothing. Instead, try holding up two items and saying, "Which one of these would you like to wear today?"
  • Offer an alternative that is acceptable to both of you. If your child is underfoot while you're cooking dinner, for instance, involve her in the process of preparation rather than shooing her out to play in the living room. Giving her an unbreakable mixing bowl and a spoon, or a safe but real task she can perform nearby-tearing lettuce for a salad, for example, or taking napkins to the table-heads off conflict and teaches lessons about appropriate and safe behavior in the kitchen.
  • Don't say no automatically, but when you do, stick to it. It's tempting, especially when you're busy or harried (and what parent of a 1-year-old isn't most of the time?), to say no without thinking when your child asks for something out of the ordinary. Often your first parental reaction is the right one, but always think before you speak; maybe it wouldn't really hurt anything to let her play in the water in the sink or snack on a piece of fruit if she's hungry and lunchtime is still a long way off.

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