Five Steps to Defuse Power Struggles

This is the moment every parent fears. You ask your child to do something, and they say, “No!” Now what? Do you force them? Do you give in? What’s an NVC parent to do?

Listen to Your Child. What is your child trying to say? Are they really into the current activity and don’t want to stop? Are they angry about something and do not feel that you have heard them? Do they think that your request is something that is impossible for them to do correctly? What do you think your child is feeling or needing? Make sure you are meeting their need to be heard.

Determine the Importance of your Request. If you need to remove them from some real danger, you may need to employ a protective use of force and physically move them. If your request was truly a request, and it doesn’t really matter much in the long run, you might choose to handle the request yourself.

Check Your Own Feelings. Did your child’s answer make you angry? Or disappointed? What need of yours is not being met? You might choose to share your feelings with your child. Or, you might choose to separate yourself in order to keep the
situation from escalating.

Discuss The Situation. If feelings are high, do not talk about the situation in the moment. Instead, make a request to talk later when you are both calm and not triggered. Talking validates both your feelings and your child’s. It puts you on a more
even playing field.

Take a Long View. Forcing a child to obey you usually works in the short term, and it is sometimes necessary (see protective use of force). However, acknowledging your child’s feelings and needs and sharing your own, will increase connection and result in a more harmonious family life.

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