How to end control battles with your child.
You thought that asking them to pass the plate was a simple request.
As was, ‘Hang your coat up please’.
You ask again. And then a third time.
You can feel your hackles start to rise. Why does it have to be this difficult?
Maybe your child ignores you.
Maybe they answer, ‘In a minute’.
Before you know it, you’re entrenched in another control battle over a tiny thing.
Even once it’s over and you’ve ‘won’ the niggles of frustration ripple through the rest of the evening.
Control battles are exhausting for everyone. If they happen often it might be time to try a different approach.
Does that just mean giving up and doing everything yourself?
It just means that taking a mindful step back might be the smart thing to do.
Choosing a different path is hard but becoming aware of what it is that's really going on can pave the path for a better connection and a more harmonious family life.
Have realistic expectations
Often when kids aren’t listening, especially younger ones, they aren’t doing it to wind you up. Kids live in the moment, they don’t think of later or tomorrow the same way we do.
They aren’t aware of the long list of jobs you have to accomplish before you can sleep tonight. And honestly – would you want them to be? While we want our kids to learn to take responsibility for themselves they aren’t little adults (and that’s a good thing!)
The best way to opt out of a control battle is to sidestep it.
Give yourself permission to come back to the conversation in ten minutes when you’ve calmed down.
(Try to avoid an over-the-shoulder ultimatum as you go)
Check in with yourself
Is it really about the coat or actually are you feeling tired and stressed? Would you handle it differently if you were in a better mood?
Take a few seconds to think about how you would like the rest of the day or evening to go.
As hard as it is, if you’re frequently having power struggles it might be a sign that you and your child are a little out of sync and feeling disconnected. Going over and giving your child a tickle or pretending to check their ears in dramatic fashion to discover why they can’t hear you is much more likely to get a laugh and a positive response.
Holding onto the big picture helps us relax – if taking five minutes for a snack and a chat before you ask them to do something helps, why wouldn’t you?
Take a closer look
If you’re really honest, how much of your parenting interaction involves shouting direct instructions over your shoulder from the kitchen?
The magic ratio for communication is 5 positive interactions to 1 negative one. If your ratio doesn't look anything like that it might be time to change your approach.
If all you do is bark orders it’s likely that your kids will stop listening, after all how would you feel about a boss like that?
Notice the good
Chances are that lots of the time, they do actually hang their coat up or do as they're asked but those times go unnoticed precisely because of the LACK of battle.
Take a few seconds to look into their eyes and thank them for their help clearing the table.
We can get so wrapped up in our story of kids not listening that we miss it when they ACTUALLY DO!
Let it go
Sometimes give yourself permission to just let it go.
It doesn’t mean that your kids will turn into ungrateful monsters who can’t succeed in the world. It means that they’re human and on occasion they feel grumpy, tired and a little unreasonable too.
It isn't ideal but at that moment making your relationship the priority might be the exact right thing to do.
(Truth is, you probably won’t finish that to-do list anyway)
The season of motherhood is hard without your own high expectations adding more pressure. There’ll always be emails and laundry but there won’t always be a 5-year-old who wants to build a tower with you.
Make this your mantra
Stop. Slow down. Connect.
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