Power Struggles: To Spank or Not To Spank

If you find yourself feeling very angry as your child refuses to comply with your plans, you are probably in the midst of a power struggle.

The challenge is often to remain the Adult in this situation and maintain your calm. It especially can feel almost impossible if you are revisiting issues that seem to never go away. When situations like this arise it is frequently a time when children get spanked. Often the spanking can feel as if it works but in the long run it does nothing to promote a loving and open bond between the child and parent. If you are ready to spank see if there is another choice you might make.

Power struggles can erupt easily during transitions or during routine procedures like getting ready in the morning, meals or bedtime. The child’s behavior is saying in essence, “I only belong when I am in control.” Clearly that is a dangerous premise for all concerned. The question then is, how do I guide my child to a more realistic way of belonging?

  1. When in the throes of the power struggle you can give choices. Choices after all give one a sense of power and very often this is just what the child needs.
  2. Avoid threats and bribery. We would all prefer that the child learn cooperation from a sense of understanding rather than from being scared or rewarded. A bribe will only reinforce the negative behavior.
  3. Say what you mean and mean what you say. An example,” I can’t make you get dressed for school but I’d really like your help in taking care of yourself.”
  4. Help the child see the consequences of his or her choice. “If you don’t get dressed for school then I’m afraid you’ll have to go in your pajamas.”
  5. Please know that when we discuss outcomes of choices we are introducing higher level thinking skills that will serve the child well for future decision making.
  6. Delivering all of this in a very matter of fact and neutral tone is imperative for the situation to be redirected. 
  7. Always separate the child from the behavior. Rather than passing judgment on the child’s character it might be helpful to say, “ This trouble we are having is really hard on both of us.”
  8. After things calm down it might be a good time to go into problem solving the situation with your child’s help.
  9. Think of ways that you can offer choices to your child. Choices empower and your child is showing you he or she would like more say in their life. Initially limiting the choices to two things is a way to keep it simple. An example is “ Would you like to wear your blue shirt or your red?”
  10. If there has been a blow-out and melt down, be sure to make up. If you’ve made a mistake admit it and apologize. It a great model for your child’s socially developing personality.If we can view discipline as teaching we will more deeply enjoy parenting young children.
About The Author

Lois Olson

Founder of The Montessori Children's House Inc. Laramie, Wyoming Montessori Primary Certification 1973
Systematic Training for Effective Parenting facilitator certification
Thirty eight years of experience working with children ages 3-6
Twenty five years facilitating parenting groups
Ten years facilitating teacher training
B.A In Psychology

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