An Imbalance of Family Power

Many well-intentioned parents over-indulge their children in a misguided attempt to help them feel loved and special. However, daily giving in to children’s whims and wants prevents them from learning to handle frustration and develop self-control, respect, and cooperation. Furthermore, children of pushover parents, who are given too much family power, become anxious, fearful, angry and insecure due to lack of effective leadership.

Authored by Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS – Dr. Mom®

Professional Speaker on Topics such as Positive Parenting, Work Life Balance, Breastfeeding Promotion and Support, Personal Growth, and Family Spirituality

positive parenting tips from expert parenting speakerIf your child has too much control over daily family activities–such as refusing to get dressed for school, insisting that you prepare a special meal for her, demanding that a particular parent lay down with her at bedtime, or provoking power struggles over minor parental requests–the following strategies can help you restore family harmony and become a loving leader.

  • Make a strong commitment to change, so you don’t revert to your former and familiar parenting style when your child vigorously resists your initial efforts to become an effective leader. Caving in when she escalates her power ploys will only provoke more outrageous behavior.
  • Provide essential structure in your family by implementing daily order and routine. Children gain a comforting sense of security and control—making them less power hungry and more compliant–when they experience a predictable sequence of events in their day.
  • Stop catering to your child’s wants or demands, or being overly attentive to her day-to-day feelings of frustration and disappointment. Don’t give too many choices or multiple chances, or explain or negotiate every parental decision. Do not overreact to her pleading, pouting, emotional meltdowns, or accusations that you are “mean” or “unfair.”
  • Establish firm limits and boundaries. Without appropriate limits, children feel anxious and will keep challenging your authority to see where your boundaries lie. During a calm, pre-planned discussion–using a friendly, firm tone—explain your new family rules and expectations. Then, expect your child to test your new limits frequently, as you repeatedly show her that the family rules are no longer flexible.
  • Offer acceptable choices throughout your child’s day to help instill a healthy sense of personal power and promote cooperation, “It’s time to get dressed for preschool. Would you like to walk to your room or race me?” or “It’s time to pick up your toys. Do you want to do it yourself, or would you like me to help?” If she declines both options, repeat “What were the choices? Sounds like you want me to choose for you.”
  • When making a parental request, use a positive, confident, supportive tone that encourages cooperation, “Hey Sweetie, the TV is too loud. I need you to turn the volume down.” If your child fails to promptly comply with your request, come close to her, make eye contact, and re-state your request using a no-nonsense tone, “Amanda, I just said you need to turn the TV down. If I have to remind you again, I will turn it off and send you to your room for a time-out.” If your child still doesn’t obey your request, keep your feelings in check, maintain a neutral attitude, and let your actions confirm your leadership and authority, as you calmly turn the television off and escort her to her room.
  • Do not negotiate with your child if she protests the consequence you impose, “Please, I was going to turn it down. I promise I won’t let it get too loud again.” Instead, remain calm and focus on her behavior, as you re-state the consequence, “You didn’t do what I asked, and now the TV needs to stay off while you take a time-out.” If your child resists, do not become emotional or engage in a power struggle by raising your voice, threatening, arguing, or debating. Simply walk her to her room and calmly repeat, “You need to take a time-out until I come get you.”

Recommended reading about correcting an imbalance of family power

Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm by Beth Grosshans, PhD. with Janet Burton, LCSW, (Sterling Publishing, 2008)

When Parents Wield Too Much Power

At the opposite extreme from the pushover parenting style, overly domineering parents exert excessive power and control over their children, with the following harmful results:

  • Using disrespectful intimidation, bullying tactics, and insufficient empathy only provokes more power struggles with children and spurs rebellion against authority figures.
  • Instead of learning respect, cooperation, and self-control, children of domineering parents focus on not getting caught.
  • An intimidating parenting style instills fear, hurt, and shame, and stunts the desire for learning and achievement.

Copyright © 2012 Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS