Parenting Class for Divorce


Date: 7/23/2012

Parenting Power Struggles; how divorce effects discipline.

No matter how sweet your kids are, there sometimes are power struggles in parenting. Every parent knows that they are not fun and usually nobody wins — parent or child. They can be stressful, unpleasant and destructive to a harmonious family life and parent-child relationship. Here's a strategy that can help you change your mind-set and realize they do not have to be part of parenting. How can a parent avoid power struggles?

The answer is simple: use positive discipline that doesn't include punishment. 


I always ask parents to envision the qualities they want the relationship to have. Parents almost always answer with the qualities of: open communication, shared feelings, thoughts and values, fun times together, mutual respect, and being approachable when their child has problems. I make the point that how they build their parenting relationship will affect their future bonds, and discipline style is a key ingredient in the parent-child relationship. Every child needs discipline, and the discipline style can provide connection or disconnection in the relationship. 


Look at it this way, the goals of discipline are:

To teach the child lifelong skills for good character, such as responsibility and self-control. 
To protect the child. 
To instill values.

When parents and children are locked in a power struggle, emotions begin to escalate. It is important for the parent to stay calm and let go for the moment. They have more experience in self-control and can switch gears easier. Simply refuse to participate. A power struggle is when a person holds one position and another person holds a different position and both are unwilling to change their positions. Then it becomes a struggle for power. It is rarely about the issue at hand. It is about feeling powerless and wanting to feel more power within the situation.

The time to re-examine the needs of the parents and child causing the power struggle is later, when the emotional temperature in the relationship has gone down. Be sure to address it though. Don't let it go unresolved forever. 


If you want to be better at discipline avoid doling out punishment. 

It may be counter intuitive, but instead of thinking about a time out use a real world "cause and effect" to guide the learning experiences It teaches and guides children how to think for themselves. It doesn't just force them to obey.


I like to use win-win negotiation to resolve conflict. Most of us were not taught the concept of win-win negotiation. We most likely experienced situations that were win-lose or lose-lose. In a power struggle the most effective negotiations are when both sides win and are happy with the end results. It can be challenging since you must listen intently to what the other person wants while staying committed to what you want. Ask your child, "I see how you can win and that's great, because I want you to win. How can I win, too?" When children see that you are just as interested in seeing them win as yourself, they are more than willing to help figure out ways that you both can win.  


Consider that misbehavior is a form of communication. Your kids are trying to tell you something that they simply cannot properly communicate. Before getting angry at bad behavior, look at it like you don't understand what is happening and you need clarification. Use curiosity about their behavior such as, "Honey, I'm curious, why did you do that?" to refocus the exchange. You will probably get an honest answer and have a better understanding about what is going on with your child.


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