How to Avoid Power Struggles
By: Noreen Kopaczewski LCSW #16864
Sometimes getting your child to comply with a task can seem like a game of tug-a-war, with both of you wanting to get your way. Here is a technique I have found helpful to get your child to be more cooperative by giving them choices.
I called it “Watch the Clock”. Here’s how it works:
- Give your child a directive.
- If they do not follow it, remind them of the task and that if they choose not to follow it, there will be a negative consequence.
- If they still do not comply, tell them that they are choosing to have a negative consequence, and start “Watch the Clock” by turning the stopwatch on your cell phone.
- Once they start to comply with doing the task, the time stops. The time on the stopwatch would be the time they have to serve a negative consequence (ie. loss of video game time; phone time; internet time; TV time, etc.).
- If after doing the task, they refuse to serve their negative consequence, then start the stopwatch again, and add this time to the original amount of time.
- For example, you ask your child to wash the dishes. If they do not, even after you remind them to do it and that you will start “Watch the Clock” if they don’t.
- At this point, if they start the dishes, there is no negative consequence.
- If they do not start the dishes until 30 minutes later, then the negative consequence is for 30 minutes.
- If they refuse to do their consequence for another 30 minutes, then the total consequence time is 60 minutes.
I have used this technique when I run therapy groups with kids as well as with my own children. It is very important to be committed to follow through with having them immediately serve their consequences every time you use this technique. If you are not consistent, they will not believe you will have them do it and you’ve lost.
Giving kids the power to choose is the secret to getting their cooperation. Therefore, you can also give them two options for doing a chore (that you will be fine with doing either one). If they won’t make a choice, tell them you will choose for them. At this point, they usually cooperate. Good Luck!