Win Power Struggles with Your Teen By Giving Up the Fight

Keeping the peace is the easiest way to win power struggles

parents arguing with teen girl
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The Power Struggle Conundrum

Many power struggles and arguments you have with your teen could be totally avoided by changing the way you react to what your teen is saying or doing. Not that you are to blame for your teen's behavior - you're not - but, this isn't about blame. It's about learning strategies that work with your teen to get them to do things that will lead them to be successful in their lives.

That's the number one goal.

Set Clear Expectations to Prevent Power Struggles

The most important aspect of nipping power struggles in the bud is by stating clear expectations for your teen. Just as your day would be a little off if you didn't intentionally set yourself up to do what was needed each day, your teen is dumbfounded by your reactions to their behavior, when you never shared your expectations of their responsibility beforehand. For example, if you expect your teen to do the dishes each night. Set a specific time you'd like them done by and share that with them at least a day in advance. Incorporate your teen into deciding when and what time they can handle their chores, and now you've set an expectation that they have willingly partnered with you to do. You may want to set up a contract writing out what is expected to be cleaned and how it is tied to your teens allowance or other privileges like watching television or being on the Internet.

Having a conversation works, but writing it down, with clear consequences for breach of contract, will help everyone remember what was agreed on.

Offer Support to Avoid Power Struggles

When dinner is finished and it is time for the dishes to be done, ask your teen if they are okay with the chore they need to do.

Do they need help with anything in particular? For instance, do they need to know how to scrub a nonstick pan? Being courteous to them shows that you care about them and the chore they need to complete. Plus, you would be surprised at how many teens do not know how to do the things that are asked of them even when they have seen you do the task a million times. After they have completed the chore, be sure to thank them. If something wasn't done correctly, help them get it done or demonstrate your preferences. If it happens more than once, add that particular thing to the contract and follow through with it like the rest of the chore. Or allow your teen to decide if or when they can do things their way in regards to their chores. The goal is to get them to be responsible, not to get them to do everything the same way you would. As they form good habits celebrate their consistency.

Handling Consequences with Patience and Tact

What if your teen doesn't comply even when you do all the necessary preparation of making your expectations clear, etc.? What if you still find yourself in a power struggle with your teenager? First take your emotions out of the situation. Remain calm and remember the goal.

It's not to win a fight and 'make' your teen behave at this one particular time. Remember, the goal is to teach them life lessons about responsibility. Using a calm and firm voice, remind your teen of the agreement you made when you set up the responsibility, the time they agreed to finish the task, and when the agreed upon consequence goes into effect. Then walk away and let your teen make their own choices. If worst comes to worst, you may do the dishes until they understand that their privileges are attached to their responsibilities. If it takes longer than a few days, there may be other factors involved and you'll need to seek help.

Gaining Control by Maintaining Love

What is truly important to note here is that you don't hurt your teen's self-esteem when you react to their defiant behavior. That will only escalate the situation. You will actually help build their self-worth because you've turned the ownership of the responsibility over to them and not allowed compliance to control your emotions. While it may be difficult to react this way at first, the benefit of never having to deal with that particular power struggle is worth the time and energy it will take to follow through.

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