Power Struggles with a Five-Year-Old

Hi Naomi, my almost 5 year old often has a demanding behaviour, which drives me crazy. For example, he wants me to pick up things he just has thrown down, he asks me to bring him toys so that he has not to get up when we play, he wants me to carry things for him to another room when he likes to play with them in this other room and so on. For me, it feels like a power struggle and I always have a huge reaction towards him. For me it feels like a trap: when I do what he wants I feel controlled by him (afterwards I am usually very angry at him), when I don`t fulfill his request he starts screaming and tantruming in a big way. Do you have any suggestion about this?


Dear parent,

I would love to assist you in getting to the root of this difficulty, and I doubt this can be done in one short answer. The question is not how to respond when your son asks you to serve his needs. Instead, there are two possible questions: Why does he need to demand in this manner? Or, if his requests are typical and healthy, what drives you to resist caring for him? Since I cannot know which it is, I can only offer a couple of guesses.

I cannot even know if your child is really too demanding, or if you experience him this way because you resist. So, there are two subjects to work with: If these are ordinary needs, why does it bother you? And, if he is overly demanding, why does he need to do it and how can you change the conditions so he would not need to do it? 

A few possible sources of confusion can be:

1) You could be afraid of his tantrums. You may want your child to be happy all the time which is not possible. The result is that he can get anything he wants from you under the threat of “If you don’t, I will be upset.”

2) In contrast and in addition, it is also possible that your child feels too controlled and therefore has a need to assert his power by being demanding and by overpowering you.

3) It is likely that your child is not overly demanding at all. Young children are eager to get things done and they are assertive about asking for our services. For example, not wanting to interrupt the play and asking you to bring him what he needs is totally normal. 

4) If #3 is true, then the question is what inside of you is resisting care and kind support of your child. This could be related to your own childhood and other past experiences.

If you do something you don’t want to do, you are going to feel a painful power struggle because you are going against yourself. 

If you can take a phone session with me, I can sort this out with you so you can bring clarity and peace into your relationship with your son. You can sign up for a session here: http://naomialdort.com/guidance.html

Meanwhile, you can start exploring the roots of this issue, by asking yourself some basic questions (some contradictory but it is all useful):

Why am I doing what he says if I don’t want to?

Why don’t I want to serve him and help him? 

Am I afraid of his tantrums?

Do I think he must be happy all the time?

Do I think that if he is not happy it means I am not a good mother?

Am I afraid that he will learn to take advantage of people?

You may explore other thoughts that relate to the way you feel.

If you had no concerns about serving your child, then you would enjoy serving him. It is your inner opposition that causes your inner struggle. There is no right or wrong about serving. Kindness is harmless but inner conflict is painful. If you believe there is a problem for your child’s development, then don’t do what you don’t want to do and work on your ability to be with his tantrum. The way to peace is through total honesty and the willingness to embrace all emotional expressions with love.

Warmly,  Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *