mother_ready_to_scream-300x300Parenting can be a lot less stressful when we start to see every power struggle or show of defiance as a signal to stop, slow down, breathe, reconnect with self first, and then our child.   

Rather than focusing only on what your child is doing or not doing, bring your awareness back to the relationship between you.  

We’re generally more successful in gaining our child’s cooperation when we slow down and connect with more warmth and kindness;  connect before you correct.

Remember that you can influence your child positively, but mostly only when they feel the connection with you.  Frustrating but true!

See the power struggle as your cue to slow down

When parent and child get into a power struggle, parents tend to talk more, appeal more, demand more, explain their position. Yet, what’s usually needed is to stop, breathe, slow down and truly listen. Better still when we can slow down enough to first notice and listen to your own feelings and bring in some self-empathy first; “oh wow this is so stressful, I feel so stretched right now” (even 5 seconds can start to change the mood). 

Then, with more patience and calm, you can hopefully now truly listen to your child and practice active listening and generally in one way or another, remind your child (whether they’re a toddler, a teen or anywhere in between) that you’re really there for them.  Show your child that you’re really truly caring about what’s going on for them, what they feel and what they need.

This isn’t an easy turn around when you’re caught up in the stress response. 

When you’re fighting the dreaded clock, when there’s a huge backlog of YOUR unmet needs, it’s not easy to shift focus like this.  Choosing to re-connect is about as easy as making the choice to make yourself a camomile tea when you’re hanging out for, but know you really shouldn’t have, that coffee or glass of wine or sugary food.  It’s not the easiest thing to do, it takes huge commitment and self-discipline.  But boy is the result worth it and healthy stress management is exactly what we want to model to our children! Sidenote here but I really recommend reading Discipline is destiny. 

Most conflicts and power struggles can be fairly easily dissipated by slowing down, softening, letting go of your agenda, even temporarily, and re-connecting.  Or through bringing in some humour!  Our children can rarely resist coming back into the harmony of the parent-child connection when we move into goofy silly mum/dad mode, or simply show them that we’ve got that playful glint back in our eye.

Kids respond best when we’re calm, confident and present to them, rather than just throwing out the orders.  

But to achieve the momentous task of putting the relationship before the tasks to be achieved, the clock or the gripping urge to prove our point, to choose to connect rather than control, to be playful rather than demanding; we first need to stop, pause and re-centre ourselves.

You don’t have time *not* to slow down.  

It’s easy to think that we don’t have time to stop in our tracks to re-connect, but when we don’t, it’s pretty guaranteed that everything you need your child’s cooperation to achieve in the day is going to take ten times as long – at least!

If you’re committed to doing less yelling and better managing your stress, there are so many resources and  eCourses like Overcoming Overwhelm, Mindful Parenting eCourse, the Peaceful Parenting Step by Step eCourse and the 10 Day Peaceful Parent Challenge. See all our eCourses and audios in our shop.


Also, you can read “Why we explode and how to prevent it

stop_sign_pageOne of the tips I give many clients that they seem to find really helpful is to simply visualise a big red stop sign to help them remember to stop, slow down and consciously breathe out stress.  To help them remember, parents will often print one out or draw it and put it up in the room where most of the conflicts happen.  Then write down some keywords on it that remind you to breathe and lower your stress level, to reset and start again. If you put one of these up on your wall, maybe put a love heart somewhere on the paper to remind you what it’s all really about.

Avoiding conflicts and crashes 

If we get to the traffic lights and there’s a red light, but we ignore it and drive on through we’re taking a risk, there could be a crash. We’re entering a danger zone. This is the same when we charge forward in our interaction with our child when our stress levels are soaring and we’re caught in the grip of trying to control our child whether they like it or not.  It’s risky, dangerous, there will be repercussions at least on the emotional level.

The parent is at risk of overpowering their child, making their child scared, making them freeze and comply from a place of fear, this is the place where time outs are likely to happen or yelling or punishments of other kinds or sarcasm or guilt tripping or stone walling, we all know how it goes.



When a parent can’t pull back, when they charge ahead and operate from that place of intense stress and frustration; the frustration, sadness and fear that the child has embodied will no doubt reflect in their actions through the rest of the day and into the night. Unless or until it’s repaired.

Every parent has their moments of charging ahead when they know they should pull back, so please don’t be down on yourself when it happens. It does happen. It’s a symptom of *your* unmet needs being sky high.

Changing habits is challenging, it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, it takes a lot of learning through our mistakes, but we’re all in it together, all doing the best we can to change the patterns that were handed down to us that didn’t serve us.

We all need encouragement.  

We all need to be recognized for our striving, for our good intentions, our efforts.  Children especially need to truly believe that their parent sees their innate goodness and really believes in them.  How can a child believe in themselves enough to put in the hard yards of meeting life’s challenges unless they know their parent really believes in them.  Make sure you’re counting your successes and your child’s successes, the big ones and especially the little ones.  How amazing are you for being on this journey of awareness, self-responsibility, change and growth.  How rewarding!

Some parents find the tracks on Genevieve’s Stress Relief for Parent’s CD to be a great help in managing their stress, exploring their triggers and developing healthy self-care practices on a daily basis.

Genevieve Simperingham is a Psychosynthesis Counsellor, a Parenting Instructor and coach, public speaker, human rights advocate, writer and the founder of The Peaceful Parent Institute.  Check out her articles, Peaceful Parenting eCourses, forums and one-year Peaceful Parenting Instructor Training through this website or join over 90,000 followers on her Facebook page The Way of the Peaceful Parent
  1. […] To become more centred, it can help to see the power struggle as your cue to slow down and truly listen to your own feelings and bring in some self-empathy […]

  2. […] how sad and rejected they feel.  Neither approach helps a child reconnect.  Either approach exasperates the power struggle.  It's very important that we parents give our children the message that they're allowed to feel […]

  3. […] use, the more clarity and confidence we can share with our children. We can avoid it becoming a power struggle when we show them that we really are caring for them and protect them while continuing to listen to […]

  4. […] for their child and for themselves (always a victory!), instead of seeing themselves as the victim of their child’s reactivity, the parent regains their role as the adult whose job it is to help their child. This process of […]

  5. […] When communication becomes tense, parents often lose their positive influence and can expect power struggles. So the first stage is often to work to take the tension out by owning our own feelings and working […]

  6. […] and supportive. And the prior agreement helps the parent losing their patience in the midst of a power struggle with their child to be better able to perceive the intervention as support. Rather than feeling so […]

  7. […] a power struggle has developed between yourself and your child (or between siblings) you could playfully invite your child to push […]

  8. […] need to focus on centring ourselves and better managing our stress. Again and again, I witness the power struggles shift and the child better trusting and following their parent’s care and guidance when the warm […]

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