Do you have a master negotiator at home—a child who likes to control every conversation and/or changes the rules to suit his needs? If so, you may be stuck in the cycle of frequent, exhausting parent-child power struggles.
Kids who crave control may fight parents on everything: daily routines, food choices, play dates, and more. They may be rigid thinkers who expect that everyone will conform to their rules, ideas, and plans. If you give such children a choice between A and B, they will most likely choose option C. They can be quite creative, intense, and persistent!
Socially, control-craving kids may have few friends because they haven‘t yet mastered social exchanges, or they may be have some close friends who enjoy following their lead. Mostly, these children do best with older kids, who allow for some rule bending. Peers are the most difficult group to play with, because they are the most unpredictable. You never know when a peer is going to grab a toy from you or refuse to play by your rules.
Managing your control-craving kid begins with three basic prevention strategies:
1. Create predictable routines because s/he doesn’t cope well without structure.
2. Choose your battles. Ask yourself if you are a control-craving parent.
3. Give choices when possible. And if a choice isn’t possible, find a way to acknowledge
your child’s difficulty accepting your final decision.
Sometimes when a child fights for control, the parent responds by automatically becoming more rigid. More extreme consequences are imposed, and the child feels less and less control over the outcome. When this happens, negative behaviors may escalate into full-scale meltdowns. Here are some tips for avoiding explosive tantrums:
Validate your child‘s experience. What does the world look like from his or her point of view?
Do some detective work. What event or request triggered the reaction? Do the meltdowns happen during transition times, bedtimes, or a play date?
Teach positive strategies that your child can implement next time. There’s no need to spend too much time fixating on what just happened. Move on, and help your child build skills s/he can use when faced with a similar challenge tomorrow (or an hour from now).
Children, like adults, want to be respected. They want people to understand their behaviors. They need skills, taught by patient, emotion-neutral, caring adults. These life skills include developing anger management strategies, building resiliency, coping with disappointment, and solving problems creatively. These skills are not innate; they must be taught. Invest time in supporting the development of these skills during the early years, and you will reap the benefits for years to come.
October 23, 2012