Power struggles. We see them all the time, especially in public places as mothers plead with their kids to behave. Common concerns among parents are, where do you draw the line? When do you put your foot down and declare authority in a situation? When do you listen to reasonable negotiations? As a homeschooler, I hear this question often,
“How do I get my kids to listen to me without fighting with them all day?”
Of course we must start with the typical mommy-blog disclosure:
All families are unique and require different parenting styles. From one kid to the next, requires different parenting techniques. What I hope to do is simply offer some resources and food for thought, in sha Allah.
1. Read parenting books
I’ve read my fair share of parenting books, both secular and Islamic. Many of them touch on the same core techniques and give warnings of overly permissive or rigid parenting styles. One book I recently listened to (because as a busy mom, audio books is my main way of reading these days), and highly recommend is No Drama Discipline.
No Drama Discipline is a follow-up book from The Whole Brain Child. The authors reference The Whole Brain Child in a few spots, but it’s definitely not necessary to read one before the other. In fact, I haven’t read The Whole Brain Child, but in sha Allah will do so soon.
What really rung true for me in No Drama Discipline, was the need to connect with the child before redirecting their behavior. I know that my 5-year-old needs to feel heard, or she starts to lose control of her emotions. I felt as if this book was written specifically for my situation in life right now.
Big emotions no longer have to rule the day.
Even the authors give examples of how it doesn’t always go perfectly – nothing ever does – but it’s still an invaluable guide to help your children learn how to manage those big emotions of theirs, and to help parents show their kids respect, even when they are losing it.
2. Let them have a voice
Along the same technique that’s outlined in No Drama Discipline, I’ve learned that letting your child have choices and make their own decisions (usually within a list of given options by the parent), gives way to less power battles. Simply giving your child the choice of doing math or reading work first, can be helpful. As they get older, giving them more choices in their schedule helps them make important decisions, prioritize their time, and feel that they have control in their day-to-day lives.
Maybe they don’t like the options you are giving?
Even saying, “I hear you’re wanting to play with your friends, instead of work”, can help them feel like you’re not ignoring them, and ideally, they won’t feel the need to lash out in order to be heard. When you think about it, negotiating what they desire in a respectful way, is an important skill they will need as they grow.
3. Is it worth it?
When I first became a parent, I vowed to make sure that when I told my child “no,” I had a reason. I remember my parents sometimes saying no to my requests, simply because they were in a bad mood, and that always bothered me.
Along the same vein, is my “no” really worth the fight? Little things like whether they get more ice cubes for their glass of water, can turn into a power struggle. Are they really walking all over me if they get one more ice cube for their glass after the first one melts? Are they really going to turn into sniveling brats if they get the ice cube? Likely not.
Without giving way to unfounded fears, really consider whether letting them have a voice and get what they want, is going to be detrimental to their future, and whether the fight itself is helping or hurting them.
4. Giving them notice and routine
It helps when we give notice that things will be changing. If your child reaches the end of a task, saying something like, “just a couple more chips, and then we’re done”, fares far better than just taking the chips away. Taking that further, means that their days are generally predictable and they know what to expect.
There’s a fine line between predictability and rigidity, with predictability being far more successful that rigidity. Being predictable means doing school work after the same meal each day, or going to the library the same day every week. Rigidity means not being able to accommodate a visit from friends or a spontaneous movie night with the family.
When you child knows generally what to expect, they can feel more confident and in control of their day, helping them feel empowered, in sha Allah.
5. Keep it short
Whatever you’re doing, remember the attention span of your child. For instance, when you’re trying to get some help with chores around the house, make sure you’re asking for something that is age appropriate. One young child cleaning up a living room that three kids played in, is likely beyond their ability.
Instead of asking for my 5-year-old to clean an entire room (and then have a fight about whether that will actually happen), I ask for one or two tasks at a time. Each item is short, and I can gauge how much more I can reasonably ask as each task is complete.
We never get into a power struggle where I need to display that I’m in charge. My goal, in sha Allah, is to remain in charge, but also respect my children’s feelings and age limitations.