Avoiding Power Struggles - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 05-26-2003, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
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I have always thought that it is so very important to avoid power struggles at all costs with children, especially very young children who are learning all about what to expect from you, your parenting style, etc. However, now that I have a 19-month-old who can be very headstrong at times, I think I've been initiating a lot of power struggles just because I don't know how else to deal with some of the things he does.

For example, if I'm trying to change his diaper and he absolutely WILL NOT be still, keeps trying to roll over or kick me, is twisting to pull wipes out of the wipe container, is sticking his feet in his poop, and all that fun stuff, how should I deal with that? My initial knee-jerk reaction is to say, "Be still!" but I know that's probably the worst way to deal with it. I try to keep my cool and say, "When you let me change your diaper, then we can go outside" but it doesn't seem to help things at all.

Another example is throwing blocks. Whenever he plays with his blocks, all he seems to want to do is throw them, HARD, at people or breakable objects. I guess I could just take them away, but this seems like a power struggle also. I explain to him, "When you throw blocks at people, you hurt their feelings." He just laughs and does it again.

He is a very intelligent child, so I know he understands what I'm saying when I try to explain things to him, but it's like the only thing that works with him are commands! It's driving me crazy!

Any suggestions on how NOT to sprout horns out of the top of my head during these situations?
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#2 of 5 Old 05-26-2003, 10:23 PM
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First a book recommendation: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It's not specifically toddler oriented but helpful in an "overall philosophy" way.

Power struggles are the first sign that your wonderfully intelligent child is developing a good strong and healthy will. I've found that by having as few rules as possible and keeping them age-appropriate, helps mucho.

DS is an on again, off again diaper struggler. When he's on, it can be so tough! I remember when he was younger, I could give him a toy or even a usual "no-no" (my glasses for instance) and this would keep him occupied while I "fast as a whip" got the change done. Now that he's older, I find it very important to engage him verbally and playfully while changing the diaper. The "where's your nose, where's your eyes" game works well usually or we sing songs he knows that maybe he's learned a little finger play too (itsy bitsy spider). I find that if I stay happy calm and engaging, he's much more still and able to handle the change. As with so many other things that come up, my happy go lucky attitude (no matter how forced on some days ), can really turn a situation around.

For your second instance, I think I would focus less on people's "feelings" at this age. While certainly, it's time to set the tone, 19 months is pretty young to understand and respond to people's "feelings." I would focus more on hurting people in a physical way which is something that he definitely *can* understand now as I'm sure at 19 months, he's taken his share of spills. What I do exactly in this scenario is this: I tell DS that he's not allowed to throw his blocks at people because he could hurt someone. I then tell him that if he wants to throw something, he may throw a ball gently in the house or outside (I show him to throw into an open space rather than at someone, something or a pet). This redirection usually works quite well for us however, there have been times when I've had to place the "item in question" up for a time, but most of that was early on. Anymore, he responds to *pointed* redirection--has to be pointed by the way, general redirection (to another type of activity), rarely if ever helps.

Another thing to remember for us, is to address any underlying emotion that may be involved. If he gets really worked up around certain people (a special fun loving Uncle or Auntie say), he may be just overly-excited. Or if he's angry for some reason and throwing things. In each of these instances, I would add "You are feeling *insert appropriate emotion here.* It's Ok to feel *said emotion.* But, it's not ok to throw at them, because they could get hurt." By addressing and validating the emotion, your child knows you're tuned in and not just handing out the standard line. In other words, he usually more ammenable to working with you.

Sorry for the novel here... I hope this helps a little. Hang in there!

Em 43 - Wife to hubby Mom to DS born: Jan. '01
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#3 of 5 Old 05-27-2003, 03:09 AM
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I have had these exact same kinds of problems with ds! Instead of blocks, our problem was with these little wooden balls that he wanted to throw around the house. I did what the previous poster suggested - giving him other alternatives to throw, telling him that these balls could hurt people, etc. And then after he was in bed that night I gathered them up and put them away. A week or so later I put them back. The instances got fewer and fewer, and now the only time he throws those balls is if he's trying to get my attention.:

Regarding the diaper changes: OMG, the biggest meltdowns I have ever had have been over ds fighting diaper changes. He would kick me and wriggle and make it totally impossible. I am embarassed to go into dh's office because I'm sure all his coworkers heard me screaming through the phone about how I can't take it anymore and I give up - all over a particularly bad diaper change (coupled with lack of sleep). I too didn't find it working to say "we can't go to the playground until we change your diaper on" or anything like that. He was too young. Giving him a forbidden item - say a coin or something - worked sometimes. I tried telling him we could wait until he was ready (for wet diapers only) - that never worked. He was never ready. I admit that if dh was home, he would hold down his legs while I changed the diaper. Or else I would say "I need to walk away" and dh would do it. I just am not strong enough to do it myself. I will say that ds is now 2, and we have much much fewer diaper struggles than we used to. I guess I don't really have any suggestions, just the hope that it won't last forever.
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#4 of 5 Old 05-27-2003, 11:27 AM
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Changing him

Let him pull the wipes. In fact, give it to him if he wants it.


Have him standing up against a low box with something for him to do so you can wipe.


Let him throw soft balls instead. Don't give hime the blocks for a bit, or if you do, have him in his (indestructable) room alone.


The anti-Ezzo king
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#5 of 5 Old 05-28-2003, 01:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the great suggestions! I am happy to say that today we had no diaper struggles, because instead of trying to take the box of wipes away from him, I actually gave it to him myself and let him pull out as many as he wanted while I changed him. It worked really well. I don't know why I've always thought of the wipe box as "forbidden" -- it sure is a lot easier putting all those wipes back into the box than it is to feud with my son over it!

I wish I could just put the blocks up and save them for when he's older, but they are his absolute favorite thing to play with, and I think they are probably the ONLY thing I could take away that he would actually miss. They are in a zip-up bag, and he brings that bag to me about 10 times a day and says "blah" (blocks). I think he'd be heartbroken if I put them up and he couldn't find them. I'm going to see if it works to show him how to throw them at something like the couch, explaining to him that the couch can't be hurt like a person can. It's worth a shot anyway.

I'm definitely going to get the previously mentioned book also -- I have heard so many good reviews on it.

Thanks again for the responses. You ladies are wonderful.
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