It doesn’t take children long to develop a unique sense of independence.
Actually, right around age two is when you start to see a little freedom flare in their personality.
By the time they are almost teenagers, that flare has often grown into a huge, crackling bonfire. While it’s encouraging to see your pre-teen’s strong backbone, it can get a little tricky to navigate the many power struggles they present. Be confident in knowing that you don’t have to let your pre-teen push you around. Conversely, you don’t have to push them around either. Here are a few tips on how to prevent those notorious power struggles during your child’s pre-teen years.
Resist the Invitation to Fight
You’ve heard the saying about not stooping to their level during a nasty conflict, right?
Now is the time to put those wise words into practice. Because your pre-teen isn’t at an adult level of emotional maturity yet, some word-slinging will likely occur. When your pre-teen verbally spews out an invitation to argue it’s up to you to stop it at that.
It could be something as simple as them making a smart aleck remark towards you. Rather than answering them vitriol for vitriol, see that remark for what it is: an invitation to battle. And, don’t accept.
Rather than fight, try side-stepping it. Remain calm while you dig a little deeper into what they’re truly feeling when they expressed the remark. Not only will this set you up as an ally, but it will show them that you truly love them and care about what they’re feeling, even if they fail to express themselves maturely.
Avoid the Fight-or-Flight Response
It’s not uncommon for parents to feel a certain need to overpower their children in order to get their point across.
Rather than overpowering your pre-teen, try to empower them.
When you need your pre-teen to follow a rule or take action, give them choices on how to do so. For instance, if you want them to pitch in with more housework, give them their choice of appropriate chores rather than assigning a chore to them.
The reasoning behind this is clear. Forceful behavior doesn’t go a long way with pre-teens. Once they sense they’re being overpowered, it triggers their fight-or-flight response. They become almost panicky and defensive. In fact, their reaction is often out of proportion to the initial confrontation.
So, stick with the empowering approach to avoid a power struggle.
Learn to Negotiate
Becoming a master at negotiating will help you in this great endeavor that is parenting.
Remember that negotiating is not giving in to the whims of your pre-teen. Rather, it’s coming to an agreed upon term in a win/win situation.
As you might have guessed, negotiating leans heavily on compromise. It’s offering them a little bit of your power in exchange for a little bit of theirs.
The goal is to make sure everyone is happy enough with the outcome to move on from the situation unscathed. That’s not to say that you have to let them have their way. What it does mean is that you let them decide how best they can still do what they want while staying within your guidelines. It’s an exchange of power, per se.
Throw a Curve Ball
When it all comes down to it, this mouthy pre-teen making your blood pressure rise is still your baby that made your heart pitter-patter years ago. Bottom line is that you love them dearly.
When you sense a power struggle coming on, you can try to avoid it by pointing their attention somewhere else. Honestly, it will help you to redirect your emotions, as well.
For instance, take them out for burgers and ice-cream when you feel an explosion drawing near. You’re not avoiding the situation or giving in to their demands. Instead, you’re sending them a message that you really don’t want to fight. You love them and strive for peace.
If nations can use this strategy to avoid war then you can certainly use it to avoid an unwanted power struggle.
If you’re struggling with your pre-teen or teen, please reach out to me. I’d be happy to help you find ways to reconnect with your child so you can be the parent you want to be.