Every parent has experienced it… Those extremely frustrating POWER STRUGGLES that ultimately leave you feeling dis-empowered and defeated.  These struggles happen at home and in public (extra frustrating) and are often over things like putting on shoes, leaving a public place, getting in the car seat or sitting on the potty to name a few!  As adults it is easy to feel like these are small “things”, but we need to keep in mind that to our little ones these are BIG things.

When these power struggles become a part of your daily routine it can feel as if your parental confidence is in the gutter and you feel you have no choice but to just give in.  Well, I’d think twice before taking this approach…

Power struggles change from small “things” to  much bigger “things” as kids get older.  An overall lack of listening and being respectful will begin to build and pretty soon you will be struggling with a bigger more argumentative child.  So it is VERY important to get these struggles under control while your little’s are still little.

So. how can you regain control and diffuse these situations??

When your little’s are still little – 

1.  When tantrums ensue:  Power struggles and tantrums ensue because things happen too abruptly.  So give a warning about what is happening next…”We are leaving the park in 5 minutes”.

2.  When transitions are tough:  Talk, talk, talk…I can’t say this enough. It is easy to just rush through your routine with your little one but this can cause anxiety for them.   Think about it everything is NEW to them.  How would you feel if someone carted you around all day to unfamiliar places, never telling you what was happening next?

Even though your little one may not be talking yet they are still listening and absorbing EVERYTHING around them. Talk about what your schedule is for the day, starting the night before…

“Tomorrow Ashley is going to school and daddy is going to work.  We are going to have breakfast, take her to school and then we are going to gymnastics, then lunch and after nap we are going to the doctor.”  Then continue to talk about it through at the day, “now we are…and then…”.  Try this for a week and see how the power struggles and tantrums start to disappear.

3. When there is no letting go:  Say “goodbye” to inanimate objects.  Say “goodbye” to the ball, say “goodbye” to the puppy dog, whatever it is this approach allows your child to process letting go of said “thing” and therefore diffuses a power struggle of letting go.

4.  When independence takes over:  Around 3 years old little ones begin to want to do things on their own.  You want them to be independent but this sets the ground for lots of power struggles. Being the mindful, intelligent parent that you are, you allow them feel as if they have the power to choose but ultimately you know you are in control.

For example:  Your little one doesn’t want to wear a shirt. You WANT your little one to wear a shirt.  You allow him to choose between two shirts.  You ask him a few times to pick one but he refuses.  So you pull out the, “I’m going to count 3 and then you pick”.

Now, this can play out one of two ways…you count to 3 and he doesn’t choose and the struggle goes on and on OR when  you get to 3, you say, “ok, pick a shirt or I’m going to pick for you.”  And that is that!  He may be upset for a minute but now you have put a boundary in place that he will remember.  “I better choose or mommy will choose for me.”

When your little’s are not so little – 

1.  When power struggles become a teaching moment: Look at power struggles as your opportunity as a parent to provide guidance.  Remain calm and confident.

2.  When your child tries to argue or yell:  Always take the higher road and do not engage in arguing but instead diffuse the situation by saying something like, “I’m not going to argue about this, I’ve asked you to do it already and I trust that you will.”

3.  When you want your child to do something right away:   Coming across as a drill sergeant will get you nowhere.   Stop, take a breath and tune into their world for a minute.  We all know how irritating it can be to have to stop something we are really involved in to do something else.  Give em a break once in a while….

4. When your child is acting out:  Try and dig deeper,  if your child is normally a good listener see what the underlying issue is that may be causing this behavior.  Did something happen at school?  How are they feeling?

5.  When nothing is working:  Try and re-think your approach.  What works for one child may not work for another.  Depending on temperament and what type of learner your child is you may need to switch things up.

At any age – 

Treat them with the same loving kindness you expect from them.  Use these times of struggle to center yourself, be mindful of your actions and re-connect with your kids.  You will begin to find that you are now experiencing more peace and balance instead of struggle.

Please share your experiences with diffusing a power struggle below!  Any tips to add?


  1. Thanks for yet another great post Leanna. Your post comes at a time when I just had some reflection done on my approach n behaviour towards my kids over last 2 weeks. ‘Power struggle’, you nailed it. One realization I have is that I brought them to the world, I am responsible for their healthy growing. Body mind n soul. How long will they be with us, attach to us and yearn for our affection? Short. Hence I choose to be patient n gentle with them n by doing so, I m also being patient n gentle with myself. Thanks Leanna. To your Abundance, Sandy 🙂

    • Leanna Long Author

      Hi Sandy, I’m so happy that this came at such a fitting time for you. What powerful realizations! It is nice to take step back sometimes and look at the big picture. This helps us see that in the grand scheme of things these power struggles are minor. Cheers to you taking the higher road for yourself and your kids! Thanks for sharing!

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