How to Cut Back on Negative Consequences and Power Struggles

How to Cut Back on Negative Consequences and Power Struggles

Feel like your kids are on a totally different wavelength? Here’s some help.

By Lorraine Allen

One of my biggest personal parenting challenges has been figuring out how to fewer power struggles in our home. Whether getting out the door on time, or getting to bed on time, or just letting me have an adult conversation without interruption for once—you know, simple things—my kid seems to be constantly operating on a different wavelength, and hardly a day goes by without conflict in our home.

So I’ve done some research and discovered a few simple ways for us to work together toward shared goals without negative consequences (which never seem to work, anyway). Here’s what I’ve found, in case you care looking for more peace and happiness, too:

Are you constantly hounding your kids to get ready for bed on time, or get out the door for school? Kids are not robots, and even the most well-intentioned child forgets things parents tell her to do, frequently. In fact, kids don’t even have a real sense of time until around age 8, so they don’t feel parents’ urgency when we’re trying to stick to a schedule, explains child psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moor, Ph.D., author of Smart Parenting for Smart kids.

What they can understand are basic sequences, so a great solution to these struggles is to paste up a board with a set of reminders of what kids need to do, and when, such as brush teeth, pack a bag, set out clothes, etc. Kids thrive on regular routine, so helping them create one and stick to it can be very beneficial for everyone. Giving kids a timer, or a watch if they are 8 or older, can help them manage time more independently, too.

More from P&G everyday: 13 Expert Tips for Becoming a More Patient Parent

Can’t finish a conversation, and tired of constant interruptions? Laura Markham, Ph.D., and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, believes that evolution is to blame for kids constantly interrupting us and not respecting our need for space, because back in the Stone Age, kids were left alone in caves and if they didn’t constantly demand parents’ attention, they could be gobbled up. Yeesh.


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The solution? “Prep your kid before you get involved in a conversation,” Dr. Markham suggests. Let kids know they can say, “excuse me” politely if there’s a pressing emergency, but that otherwise, for the next five or 10 minutes, you’re going to be occupied. If a kid keeps interrupting, you can try squeezing her hand as a reminder, or remind her that you are talking to someone else, and will be with her in a couple more minutes. When a kid waits patiently, let them know you recognize their patience. “She’ll be happy to know that you appreciate her efforts,” says Dr. Markham, and more likely to behave well next time, too.

Turns out kids are on totally different wavelengths, and we can’t realistically expect them to behave the way we want them to, just because we say so. We need to dial into their frequency, make things more playful, simple, and way more consistent, if we really want them on fully board with our plans. We also need to work to give them more control and recognition, instead of constantly nagging them to listen to us.

How do you arguments and power struggles with kids?

Lorraine is a freelance parenting, health and food writer, and she shares her cooking adventures and family recipes at

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