Guest Column: Approach conflict with restraintPublished 1:41pm Saturday, November 9, 2013
QUESTION: How do I “side-step” a power struggle when my child does something that makes me anxious?
RESPONSE: We create hundreds of power struggles with our kids over homework, potty training, chores, wearing their jackets in the winter, how they sit; it can be anything that makes us nervous, embarrasses us or makes us feel guilty because we feel like we “must have done something wrong.”
When we over-react, we create a “them against me” mentality that pushes our kids away from us. When we control our own anxiety, which comes from projecting into the future and seeing failure, and stay calm and listen, we can get solutions.
When we react and lecture, we get power struggles.
The next time you want to react with a lecture, try this: “Take 5” by taking a deep breath, letting it out slowly while counting silently to five and remembering two things you really like about your child, even though he or she is really upsetting at this moment.
It is much more likely that you will not go into “freak mom” or “mad dad” mode. If you are standing up, sit down; lower your voice rather than raising it; try saying, “keep talking to me about this” and then listening.
You might ask a question: “What are some reasons you don’t think college is right for you or you don’t want to join Scouts?” A second question might be, “What would make it easier to do, if you decided you wanted to try?”
The goal is not to bury or ignore that feeling of anxiety about your children’s future. Acknowledge it and then take a different action. In spite of the present behavior, affirm two positive traits that you appreciate about your child. Make a list of all the different things your child can do in the future to be successful.
Give yourself some space: get a cold drink of water (which actually lowers your body temperature and “cools you down” emotionally) or take a walk and picture your child as far into the future as it takes to see him/her on the other side of this issue or problem (which helps put the situation into the framework of “temporary”).
Our anxiety increases distress; our calm builds confidence in ourselves and our children.
To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.