Every parent has gotten stuck in this pit. We want our child to do something, but they don’t want to do it. It’s a tug of war between our will and theirs, and someone is going to lose.

It happens multiple times a day: “Brush your teeth.” “Finish your homework.” “Eat your peas.” “Scoop the dog poop.” “Turn off the video game.”

If they don’t want to do it, that’s when the power struggle escalates. We can’t really make them do it, so we threaten, yell, or lecture to try to strong-arm them into doing it. But, in the end they have to CHOOSE to do those things.

Fortunately for our kids, we are cunning, child experts. We don’t need to flex our parenting muscles to intimidate them into doing what we want, we are gong to give them simple choices…choices that will make them WANT to do what we ask.

He doesn’t want to brush his teeth before school, let him choose between brushing his teeth or getting the dessert item removed from his lunch bag. Afterall, if he won’t brush, you’ll need to cut down on his sugar intake. You’re looking out for his best interest. “Would you rather brush your teeth or have me take the Rice Krispie Treat out of your lunch so you don’t have to eat too much sugar?”

She doesn’t feel like doing homework right now. Fine. She can choose when she is able to use the phone, or the TV, or the video game, because she won’t be able to do that until her homework is done. “I’ll do my homework later.” “OK. I’m going to hold on to your phone. When you’re done with your homework, I’ll give it back to you.”

He won’t eat the peas. OK. He can choose between peas and dessert with the family or no peas and no dessert. “We’re going to have ice cream sundaes for dessert. If you finish your peas by the time I serve the dessert, you can have some. If not, you can be excused at that time.” 

She doesn’t want to scoop the dog poop. Who does?? Again, no use of the thing that is most important to her (phone, TV, games) until it’s done. [daughter is sitting in front of the TV and ignores your request to scoop the dog poop.] “I’m going to turn the TV off until the dog poop is scooped. When that’s done, I’ll turn it back on.”

He won’t turn off the video game and it’s time for dinner. He can choose to turn it off or lose the privilege. [Another incident of ignoring the wise parent when asked to turn off the video game.] “OK. I’ll give you 2 minutes to decide. You can either turn the game off or have me turn it off. If I turn it off, you won’t be able to play until this time tomorrow.” [You could set a timer. If the child is still playing when the timer goes off, you reach behind and unplug the game, taking the power cord to a safe, secret location. If the child turns the game off while you’re unplugging, it’s too late. Continue on with the consequence. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated in that way. He had 2 minutes to comply.]

When you give him the choice, it’s time for you to let go. You need to demonstrate that you don’t really care which he chooses. If he wants to lose his video game privilege until this time tomorrow. That’s fine. You’ll give him the cord back then. She doesn’t want to scoop poop right now. OK. You don’t really care if she can’t watch TV right now. No more discussion. The choice has been made. Time to go about your day.

Giving your child choices allows him to make decisions and feel more in control of his world. Allowing him to choose to follow your direction or lose a privilege should relieve your frustration.

Avoiding the power struggle pit is a win-win situation for both you and your child.

And don’t forget the Top Parenting Tip: consistency!!

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