How to Parent without Power Struggles


How to Parent Without Power Struggles

In my practice I often see power struggles between parents and children. Parents typically want to raise a child to be a responsible and productive member of society. Sometimes, as parents, we lose focus of the end goal- we focus more on our child complying with what we want.  However, we want to raise kids to become adults who are able to problem solve and, at times, question things in an appropriate way. My solution on how to parent without power struggles and raise children who can think independently, is using Natural and Logical Consequences.  This method is appropriate for children of any age.  Kids tend to learn the lesson in a way that is easily understood.  This should ideally make our job as a parent much easier, right?

Let’s jump right into this and talk about what is a natural consequence.  A natural consequence is a consequence that would naturally occur as a result of a specific choice. Since the consequence exists there is no need for an additional punishment.  See, I told you this is easy! You may be wondering what natural consequences look like.  Here are some examples:

How to Parent without Power Struggles using 

Natural Consequences 

  • A young child wasting time getting ready for school may have to go with their hair unbrushed, or mismatched socks.

  • A 14 year-old who didn’t study, fails their test.

  •  A 9 year-old who didn’t want to wear a jacket to school gets cold at recess.  

  • An 18 year-old that gets drunk has a hangover.    

  • The adult who doesn’t pay the electric bill has the electricity turned off.

This is powerful but only effective if the child cares about the consequence.  

Obviously not every behavior leads to a natural consequence.  So what then? My answer is, use a logical consequence, rather than simply a natural one.  A logical consequence is a consequence that is imposed by a parent or caregiver and is logically and directly linked to the behavior. This isn’t as effortless or passive as a natural consequence, and often requires creativity. However, it can be fun – and effective - to impose such consequences.  Let’s look at some examples.

 How to Parent without Power Struggles

using Logical Consequences

  • A child misbehaves before an outing (such as a birthday party or going out to eat) cannot participate in the activity because the behavior is not what is acceptable in that setting.  

  • An appropriate example for overuse of electronics would be to lose that amount of time the next play session.  

  • Making a child lose internet usage for the day if he/she used the internet inappropriately.  An example of using the internet inappropriately might be the child visiting sites which they are not permitted to view or use.  Another example would be playing on the internet when they were supposed to be doing homework or chores.

  • Siblings fighting over a toy could have the toy placed in “time out” until they can help come up with solutions to their problem.  

The consequence needs to be meaningful to the child. In the first example, if the child does not want to attend the outing this would not be effective.  Also the consequence shouldn't punish any other, non-offending sibling(s). This could backfire and give the misbehaving child power over the sibling(s). If two parents are available, one parent would stay home and the other attend the event with the other child/children.

Logical Consequences Used in My Home  

  • Not brushing teeth = no snacks that day

  • Leaving cups in the bedroom = no door knob for two days

  • Leaving (junk) food wrappers in the bedroom = not buying junk food for one week

The consequence should be delivered without anger, and in a nonchalant way.  If the parent shows frustration, the child will likely respond to this in an equal yet conflicting emotional way.   In other words, a power struggle.

There is one last thing I would like to add. In addition to imposing a logical consequence, I like to use a keyword to reinforce the value I am trying to teach.  For example, "when you lie about homework, I have a hard time seeing you as trustworthy." Or, "leaving wrappers in your room shows me you aren't behaving responsibly."

Once you understand the differences between natural and logical consequences and get the hang of using them productively, you will find they are an easy and effective way to instill the values and behaviors you want into your child.  I would love to hear how you parent without power struggles.

Edited by Kevin D Astl

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