Dear Katherine: I’m in a constant power struggle with my strong-willed child!

6 tips for transforming power struggles into parent-child collaborations.

Dear Katherine,


The Struggle is Real

Dear The Struggle is Real,

  1. Encourage independent learning. Known for being spirited and brave, strong-willed children learn by experience. She wants to ride a bike without your help? Let her. She decided to cut her teddy bear open and sew it back together? Tell her to go for it. (She may cry later, but you’ll be there to comfort her.) As long as she’s not in any real danger, give her the space to test her limits. She’ll be all the wiser for it.
  2. Teach self-direction. If there’s one thing strong-willed children crave, it’s being in charge of themselves. Take this opportunity to teach healthy autonomy. Ask her to create her own daily schedule, plotting out blocks of time for activities like school, play, and sleep. Strong-willed kids are quite collaborative when given the freedom to express themselves.
  3. Give choices, not ultimatums. If your daughter is anything like mine, she probably hates submitting to a parent’s will just because they said so. Explain to her why she can’t wear her swimsuit to church (swimsuits are for swimming), then give her the choice to pick out another outfit. You can even compromise by allowing her to wear the swimsuit underneath a dress.
  4. Set routines. Most strong-willed kids need to be able to predict what happens next. Setting regular routines helps them know what to expect. Collaborate with everyone though so that each person’s feelings and needs are considered when creating the routines and you will save yourself a lot of agony. If others are included in the conversation, then you have avoided all the power struggles because they were a part of the decision making process. No more trying to sneak in another hour of screentime!
  5. Practice positive communication. Instead of yelling back when your child is throwing a tantrum (I know it’s tempting), take a deep breath and give them time to wind down before you engage. When everyone’s calmer, ask your child if she can reframe what she needs to say in a more considerate way.
  6. Listen. When a child violently opposes a simple request (e.g. to take a bath), there’s usually a deeper reason why. Sit down and ask her what’s really bothering her. The art is to do that without asking too many questions but really listening. Listening allows you to sense into what the problem is “behind the problem.” “Seems like something is bothering you” will get you further than a more direct “What is wrong with you?” Finding the real cause of conflict will help you address it at its core.



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Katherine Sellery

Katherine Sellery, CEO and Founder of Conscious Parenting Revolution, helps individuals minimize misunderstandings and melt-downs in order to communicate.