Control Versus Wishes: How to Avoid Power Struggles

Control Versus Wishes:  How to Avoid Power Struggles

Whether we are parents or teachers, we often struggle with kids who are strong willed. With these kids, we often find ourselves locked into battles over things that we have absolutely no power to control. It might appear easy at first, but eventually we become exhausted as we engage in power struggles that we can’t win.

In contrast, these strong-willed kids seem to be eager to engage in the struggle. They appear to get revved up by seeing our emotional reactions as we try harder and harder to control the situation. It’s also possible that these kids are testing to see if the adult is strong enough or loves them enough to be a wise and healthy authority figure who can set and enforce limits. Love and Logic, as you know, is mostly about the adults changing and taking a different approach rather than attempting to control others—that’s why it has proven to be effective.

These situations are power struggles over control. Love and Logic looks at power struggles in terms of control vs wishes. When we want to control something, but it is beyond our control, that is simply a wish.  When something is entirely within our ability to enforce, even if the other person becomes very resistant, then we truly have control.

For example, if you order a teenager to stop shouting, that is a wish on your part.  Usually, the teenager’s voice will get louder. We often wish we can control the tone of voice in which our kids speak to us, unfortunately this is a wish. 

What do you have control over? There are many extra things that you provide for our teens that are entirely within your control. For example, saying that you allow use of the family car when you are treated with respect. The use of the car is within your control.

Wise parents remember that having the ability to control something doesn’t mean that we necessarily should exercise our control. We want our kids to make plenty of decisions and learn from the consequences of the poor ones early in life while the price tags are smaller, so they’ll be prepared to go into the world—ready to make the many decisions required of adults.

To all parents and teachers, I greatly appreciate what you do—you care about kids, and you dedicate your life to them. Our audio, Nobody Wins a Power Struggle: Avoiding Battles that Ruin Relationships and Lead to Rebellion, is an excellent resource that can help you avoid power struggles with the kids in your life.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Nobody Wins a Power Struggle: Avoiding Battles that Ruin Relationships and Lead to Rebellion

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