Avoiding Power Struggles

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Once you have turned down a request or forbidden an activity, however, don't reverse your decision and go back on your word. This is especially important if your child's response was to whine, cry, or throw a temper tantrum. Giving in will only convince her that her tantrums are an effective-and acceptable-way to change your decision. You will have encouraged a pattern.

  • Give a time-out -- or take one yourself. If conflict can't be avoided, sometimes the most effective response is giving your child a time-out. This should be framed as an opportunity for him to calm down, collect himself, and start over again. For an older child, this usually involves sitting in a chair (or on a bed or staircase) for a specified period of time so that he can calm himself down. But for children as young as 1 year old, limited use of time-out is recommended. Before imposing a time-out, try simply turning away from a child when he behaves badly.

A good rule of thumb is to put your child in time-out one minute for each year of age, but use your judgment about what works best -- maybe it will take only 30 seconds or so. If your child is especially out of control, you may want to hold him on your lap for the duration of the time-out, physically restraining his flailing arms and legs, if necessary, and trying to soothe him verbally: "I understand how upset you are that you can't play with your brother's construction set. When you calm down, we'll get one of your toys from your room and play with that instead."

If things go awry and you are really angry, take a time-out yourself. Try the reliable standby of counting to 10, or say to your child, "I'm so angry I don't want to talk about it right now. I'm going to sit down and be quiet until I feel better." You will get a chance to calm down yourself, while also demonstrating to your child that there are acceptable ways to handle anger.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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