The Real Power Struggle

Not To Power Struggle With Our Children


Let’s think about this:

If all of us adults, from time to time, in the midst of the most challenging situations with our children, or in the heart of the great chaos and confusion, would pause for a second and watch the situation, from the sideline… what would we be thinking of ourselves?   

As parents today, let’s pause for a moment to recapture some of our thoughts, or illusions, we might have had about having children, before we actually became parents. Can we remember thinking: “What would it be like to be parents…?”

Not pertaining right now to whether or not those illusions came true, it is quite obvious that much of what we did think about parenting children does not match our reality today – and not only the “bad” reality… 

For example:

We heard we were going to be very tired. We believed we are ready for that… but no imagination could have possibly prepared us to how tired we were really going to be – physically and emotionally.


Do we remember watching other parents, thinking: “This will not happen to us!” Of course we do. Didn’t we say?

  • Our child will not shout in the restaurant;

  • Our child will never wear a checkered shirt with striped shorts and sandals in the winter…

  • Our child will never eat candy! Oh, no! 

But fantasy is one thing – and reality is another.

A mother once shared with me her thoughts of her then two-year-old girl: “I now know that she is not perfect.” She sadly said. And it is rather sad if you realize how serious and real was indeed her disappointment. But if we put our judgment of that mother aside we can realize and admit in a moment of truth, that we all “fall” in the gap between our wishes and the realistic outcome, in life in general and in parenting, of course.

Sure, reality is not perfect! It never was. It never will!

Our children are not perfect! Hey… we are not perfect! Our life is not perfect! And before we get completely depressed we want to pause here for a moment and agree: Yes! Right! It is true! Our children, our life, or us - are all not perfect. So?

So, we can still make it work!

Not living inside an illusionary bubble –allows us a better grip on reality! 

In reality our children touch the most tender spots inside of us; places most of us didn’t even know existed: Nothing can compare to standing over our sleepy child and feeling that enormous sense of love and gratitude, absorbing the aroma of their soft skin like fresh air, realizing their great innocence as it is captured in the curves of their fragility. Alas, having children challenges us in ways we didn’t know possible, and being parents elevates us to such great anger and frustration, that we find ourselves face moments of breakdowns and immense helplessness

A father once shared this anecdote of his helplessness with me: Telling me how every morning he gets up to go to work where he sits atop a tall building in a fancy office and manages 200 people which follow his words trustingly. To then, in the evening, he comes home to his two-year-old daughter who “runs” him like no other can as he feels “small” and powerless.

So how is it that functional adults, that can utilize life maturely, that handle decision-making and challenges, that have experienced much and hold opinions, beliefs and views – face a little child that throws himself on the floor hysterically and feel a complete lose of control?

Perhaps in this question the answer is actually set.

Let’s think about this: If all of us adults, from time to time, in the midst of the most challenging situations with our children, or in the heart of the great chaos and confusion, would pause for a second and watch the situation, from the sideline… what would we be thinking of ourselves? Wouldn’t we be seeing us as the exact parents we were watching before we became parents promising to ourselves: “No, I’m not going to be like them!”

What would we be doing? Wouldn’t we want to revise the situation and correct it?

Perhaps, if we had the chance to watch ourselves we might be thinking: “It’s me here, the adult (I drive, I cook, I calculate, I decide, and oh so much more…), and there he/she is: my small child; my baby; vulnerable and confused, who knows so little about life and understands even less. So how come I stand in front of him (her) and lose control? How? Why? Something’s not right with this picture. I, need to stay in control! I, need to help him sort out the problem. I, need to guide and support him. And this, I need to do all the time: when I dress or feed my child, when we sit and play, when I put him (her) to bed, and of course now – when he is falling apart… 

Because when this small child thinks he knows what he wants, when he demands what I know he should not have right now (whether it’s an infant who’s fighting sleep even when he’s already so tired, or a toddler who’s demanding the candy at the checkout point), when he is behaving in a manner I believe to be wrong or inappropriate – I need to teach him. It is my responsibility to take this little helpless child (that when he screams he looks very frightening and threatening) by his little hand and walk him through the bumps in the road, those bumps he is not able to cross on his own… And my responsibility is to identify those bumps for my child! 

Some examples to these bumps:

Ice cream before bedtime;

Candy in the checkout aisle;

T-shirt when it is cold and rainy;

Refusal to wash hair;

Hitting his little sister;

Won’t get in the car (when in a hurry, not wanting to leave a fun place), etc… 

After all, we must realize, the child stands alone in the face of such struggles if me-you-the parent not assisting him through new and tough challenges - as we actually hold the control…

And the control is in our hands NOT because we are tyrants and dictators. NO!

The control is in our hands because we have the wisdom, the experience, and the ability. 

The above are the true secrets to our control.

Our wisdom and experience allow us to know that when our baby is so tired that we need to do all it takes to help him fall asleep. Or that ice-cream right before bed time is unnecessary; and that washing our hair is healthy and necessary even when we don’t like it; or that to our opinion (the wise and the experienced one) our child had too much candy (today) and should not get any more, and so forth. And that is OK!

Our job is NOT to control our children when they are trying to control us. Our job is to understand that WE merely hold the control  - because our children are inexperienced and vulnerable.

It is quite clear at this point that we often find ourselves battling our children and so we want to ask ourselves: How come? How right is it for us to battle OUR children? Won’t it be more right to stand beside them…?


Our right and obligation as parents it to not enter a power struggle with our children.

In a battle everyone loses and with our children it’s inevitable. If we defeat them – we end up feeling discouraged and frustrated anyway. If they defeat us – they lost a parent. That’s crucial to remember.

In every power struggle with children we should remember the following points:

The forces are uneven (the child is stronger than the parent):

Instead of a cooperation and affiliation – a split occurs;

The child cannot carry the responsibility for the parent and therefore his/her frustration only increases.

We want to remember that in order to make a change in life we have to change our point of view: in this case it is our views of ourselves as adults and of our children – as only children. As adults we hold the many keys to life, as adults we chose where the keys belong to, due to our knowledge and ability.

Once we internalize the adult view we ought to find ourselves not feeling as if at any moment we might lose the control. We might actually feel as the “experts” and so we’ll owe it to our children and ourselves to handle the “job”… the great job of being parents.

Good luck.      


More by :  Siggie Cohen

Top | Parenting

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