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How To Get Out Of Power Struggle Stage

Many parents ask me "How do I get my child out of the power struggle stage?" Well, that's what we're going to talk about in this article. I'm Nicholeen and I understand power struggles. Both teenage power struggles and toddler power struggles. 

We're going to be focusing today on how to get out of that stage. I am a strong-willed person. In fact, all of my children are strong-willed. I suppose it's because I married a strong-willed husband as well. So, genetics. I guess. Do you have strong-willed children? and what do they do when they don't get their way? Or when they want to get your attention, do they power struggle? This is a super common behavior for strong-willed people. 

It shows a sign of intelligence just so you know so that means you might have a pretty smart child. But let me tell you something about power struggles. They aren't a stage. Now I know in the toddler years there is some frustration that happens because the communication isn't quite there when there are certain ages. That part is a stage, being frustrated because they can't get their words out. But when you are saying, "Come here." And they say no. And when you say, "Eat your vegetables." And they say no. And they throw it. 

That is actually not a stage. That is a behavior. And that is something that they have learned works for whatever reason. At the very least they're trying it out on you. So, let's talk about how to handle those types of behaviors with our toddlers. Because I know they can be really trying. We love them so much, they're so cute. 

They say the darndest things. And then sometimes they say the darndest things, right? And we don't like those moments. How can we have more of the better moments? This is what we're talking about today. As with any stage of development, parents have to have a plan for how they're going to communicate. Now lucky for you, 4 basic skills work for any stage of development. In fact, these books right here are perfect for little children to learn the 4 basic skills. 

So, the 4 basic skills are following instructions, accepting no answers, disagreeing appropriately, and accepting consequences. Each one of these skills has a skill set attached to it. For instance, accepting a no answer which is super useful for toddlers goes like this: You look at the person, you keep a calm face voice, and body. 

Then you say "okay" or you disagree appropriately. And then you drop the subject. Which means no whining, no complaining. You're not going to talk about it anymore. Do you believe that a toddler can do this? They can. They totally can. All of my children were able to do this. And thousands and thousands of other people's children have learned these skills as well from me. Do you believe that they could disagree appropriately? Because they can. They absolutely can. 

Now, sometimes their language is a little bit more simple. Regular disagreement appropriately sounds something like, "Mom, may I disagree appropriately about not being able to go outside to play?" And then the mother says, "Yes, you may." Because we always want to show them that engaging the logical processing part of the brain is much better than engaging the emotional part of the brain and having a tantrum and power struggling. 

So, then they say, "Mom, I know you don't want me to go out and play because it's time for dinner. But I told Susan that I would go out right after I set the table. Do you think I could go out for another maybe 5 minutes just until dinner's done?" What's mom going to think then? What a mature skill. I think if mom were smart she would say, "Yes, sweetie. That is a great disagreement. I think you can go out for another 5 minutes. 

Maybe even 10. I'll call you in as soon as dinner's done." Big hugs then. High fives. Happiness for all. So, what does this sound like when it's a toddler? When a toddler disagrees appropriately, it sounds a little bit more simple. And sometimes kind of hard to understand. 

But that's okay they're doing the process and it's still the same. They say, "Mom. Can I disagree appropriately?" And so then mother says, "Yes." "Mom, I understand don't want me to have a cookie but I want a cookie." That is disagreeing appropriately. If you couldn't understand that, what it was supposed to say is, "I understand you don't want me to have a cookie, but I want a cookie." it's basic. And they can't even really pronounce appropriately but they can do it. And then you'll praise them for it and give them a cookie. 

It's so much better that they use that skill than by using their whining skill that takes place in the mid-brain in the emotional part of the brain. That's not a helpful skill for them to get in the habit of using. So, what if your toddler does not use that disagree appropriately skill or the accepting no answer skill? Well then, you've got to know what to do next. This is the teaching self-government choices map. 

This choices map helps to use the skills we teach in the program. It doesn't teach all the skills but it tells you when to use certain skills. Now, you can see over here on the dark side of the chart that it tells when a correction is given when another correction might be given. And then when a person might be out of instructional control. 

If your toddler is whining complaining, yelling, screaming hitting, biting, any of those things; even if your teenager is doing it, they are out of instructional control. So, then you see right below that gold bar, there are 2 boxes. One of the boxes says a rule of 3. If you have an older child, you are going to use the rule of 3 to help them choose not to continue power struggling. If you have a younger child, maybe age like 6 and younger, then you're going to be using the calm down place. 

The calm down place is not the same as timeout. The calm down place is a trigger spot. It's a place that they go just to be calm. And they know that's what the place is for. Because you will pre-teach it to them ahead of time. So, when they start going out of control, then you will say, "it looks like you might be going out of instructional control.

We are going to go to the calm down place." And they might have to go there kicking and screaming. You gently with as much calmness in your heart as possible thinking, "It's okay, it's okay." You might be telling yourself that because you're getting angry and stress does not help this. In fact, they will feel it and power struggle more. 

So, what you'll do is you'll gently take them to the calm down place and then you'll tell them "As soon as you choose to be calm, to say okay with a calm face, voice, and body..." Which is one of the steps for all of these skills the 4 basic skills. ..." then mommy will come and give you a big hug and a high five and we'll talk about it." Talk about it means you'll do a correction. You'll practice things the right way and then they will get the opportunity to earn an age-appropriate extra chore. 

Children need the opportunity to calm down. You've got to help them understand how they get calm and we're a safe place is to get calm. When children are older, they can still occasionally use a calm down place. But hopefully, they have already learned when it's calm for them and was not. And you can use the rule of 3 to help them more quickly go from out of control and power struggling to calm. Power struggling is probably one of the most difficult behaviors that we deal with as parents. There's a lot that I could teach you on this topic.

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