Easy Words to Avoid Power Struggles

Do you get fed up with asking your child to do things and it often results in many daily power struggles! Did you know that on average a child may hear up to 17 commands an hour ( Carolyn Webster Stratton, The Incredible Years), and in families where there more behaviour issues, it can rise to 40? How many times a day do you catch yourself saying “NO”, “DON’T” or “STOP IT”? Unfortunately, excessive commands lead to an escalation in behavioural difficulties coupled with an increase of low self-esteem.

Here are the several pitfalls in using this type of language.

Common Pitfalls of saying “No”, and “Don’t” all the time

1. You might not be aware that “NO” and “DON’T” words are confusing for children. Children have to really double process what you may be asking. “NO” and “DONT” are words that are generic, not clear to a child and don’t explain anything, so they will have to reflect on:

What does mummy/daddy not want me to do?

How does she/ he want to do it instead?

Be Clear, what do you want them to do!

2. Constantly saying “NO” can be discouraging, especially if this is going to rise to 40 an hour. Reduce the number of commands, focus on the top three and work at one at a time. If you don’t, you are at risk of shame response, your child may start to feel as if they are ” bad” and you are probably going to feel guilty too. I know every parent wants their child to have an empowered perception of their sense of self.

3. It reinforces the negative behaviour, by drawing attention to it even more! Your child hears what you don’t want them to do. For example, if you say to your child, stop playing with your food, what do you think she is thinking off. It is likely that she will now continue to focus on playing with her food, as you have drawn attention to it.

Positive Words to avoid Power Struggles

Although we can’t eradicate the use of “NO”, “STOP” or “DON’T” Using ” DO” commands will be more instructive and ultimately more encouraging. You may have to practice a little bit but as you do, it will get easier.

Some examples of “Do” Commands

Deliver your commands in an assertive statement, rather than questions. For example :

Rather than “Don’t run around”, say:

“Use your walking feet slowly around the house”

Rather than, “Dont eat with your mouth open”

Please try and help your lips touch each other when you eat”

Find ways of Saying “Yes” to prevent power struggles

Instead of saying, I dont have time to play with you today, you could say

I really want to play with you, do you want play tomorrow or at your special time, what would like to do?

Stop splashing

Keep the water inside the bath, thank you

Use Role Play to show them how to be!

Children love to dress up and play. Why don’t you use a role-playing party? This may help your children practice what you want them to do differently? Make it fun, do a party invite for ” table manners” “getting out in the morning”, etc. Practice eating, sitting at the table ( bottoms on seats) Let it be fun! You could draw an invitation as I have below.

I really hope you find this useful. Parenting is hard and we don’t have a manual to teach us. Remember, small habits count and yes it takes practice and thought. If you like this, do like my Facebook page and if you need help, contact me for a consultation. With Love Always Catherine

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