Stopping the Word Game Children and Parents Play

 

By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.

 

We know from research and observation that many of the "power struggles" that parents and children become involved in do not end in the way the parent and/or child would like. These times when immature and/or controlling children say or do things that draw the inexperienced parent into a power struggle are times that test the fortitude of the most dedicated and caring parent. The suggestions that follow are simple "one-liners" that may help the parent turn these moments into times that teach the child a very important lesson. That lesson is, "As a parent I know what is best for you and all the emotion, word games, and accusations that you make cannot change my decision to help you." "I will not get caught a word game that takes the problem off of your shoulders and puts it on mine."

The "one-liners" printed here should be delivered with love and compassion. Placing you hand gently on your child's shoulder will enhance the effectiveness of your delivery. It also helps if you practice these phrases in front of a mirror several times before you use them on your child. In time you may even become good enough that you look forward to the opportunity that a belligerent child will give you to practice using these "one-liners." But most important, using them will keep you calm even if your child is not.

CHILD:

"IT'S NOT FAIR!" or ("That's stupid!" "My friends don't have to do that!" "All the other kids get to ...." "I don't care.")

Parent:

        (Select a "one liner" that fits your parenting style.) "That's a possibility."

        "I can see how you might think that."

        "True."

        "Could be"

        "I'm afraid so."

        "Sorry."

        "Probably so"

        "Feeling that way is an option you have."

CHILD:

"I HATE YOU!" or ("You're mean." "I don't love you anymore.")

Parent:

        "That's sad. But I still love you."

        "I guess I'm kind of hard to love at times."

        "Do you think you'll still feel that way at dinner time?"

        "I'd hate to feel that way about my Father/Mother."

CHILD:

"I'M NOT DOING IT, AND YOU CANíT MAKE ME."

Parent:

        "Take your time. I only expect it done before you go to bed."

      "Don't worry about it now."

      "I'll be glad to do it for you. That will mean I don't have the time to wash your jeans."

      "There is no hurry. Just have it done before your next meal."

      "You're mother said she would be glad to do it for you. You can pay her or I'll be glad to take it out of your next allowance."

CHILD:

"WHY DO I HAVE TO?"

Parent:

        ďIf you don't understand after you are done, I'll be happy to explain it to you."

        "I use to ask the same question."

        "Sometimes we don't understand why we need to do certain things."

        "Sometimes being responsible is hard."

CHILD:

"YOU ARE SO OLD-FASHIONED!"

Parent:

        "You're probably right."

        "A lot of people don't recognize that fact."

        "Old things can be valuable."

If you are doing what is best for your child and they do not understand this fact it does not mean that you are automatically wrong or need to defend your decision. Just use these one-liners. Do not get caught in a power struggle with your child. Power struggles are never productive. If you let your child "pull" you into a power struggle you forfeit your leadership role. You may evaluate your decision and decide to change it based on new imput, but never change on the basis of input from a pouting child.