8 Power Struggles Parents Should Let Go (and why)

8 Power Struggles Parents Should Let Go (and why)

I spent the first two years of being a mother fighting losing battles.

I tried desperately to be the best mom I could and to do that it seemed like I had to do everything right, get everything perfect and make no mistakes.

So, I set out to get my little girls to eat what I wanted them to eat. I tried to get them what I wanted them to wear. I tried to get them to do things I wanted them to do.

And I did it all based on what society, magazines and other moms seemed to think was right.

Basically, I wanted them to follow my very sophisticated, adult agenda.

And, as a result, there were a lot of tears.

On my end.

And theirs.

Waking up and accepting imperfections as part of our abundant lives is hard to do but that’s what I did. Motherhood doesn’t have to be this hard. Raising children shouldn’t cause pain — for me or my kids. And sometimes waking up is simply a matter of realizing that right isn’t always better. Right isn’t always the peaceful path. Right isn’t always what will build our kids up to be awesome and thriving.

And that striving for perfection isn’t the only way to be a good mother.

So I stopped the battles, cold.

Sure, there’s still battles — but I choose those. The rest? I let go of the power struggles that seemed to be a waste of my time and energy. The result? Our relationship, our days, our life became more peaceful and more full of joy. There will continue to be battles about things I pick my battles over such as being kind and respectful of others and taking care of yourself.

I no  longer base my motherhood value on the number of broccoli trees they eat or if their outfits look magazine-ready. I no longer weigh my worth by how clean their rooms are or whether the house is fit for company.

I’ve said this over and over but we really need to let go — of our agendas, our preconceived notions, our expectations, our desire to keep up with others and our dream of appearing to be perfect moms. We need to do less.

Plus, giving kids more power over their lives is about the best gift we can give them in life. This is how they learn.

The children will be just fine.

But, if you’re struggling with where to begin, here are a few ideas:

power struggles and parenting

Mealtime Woes — Let go of how much they eat and what they eat. So long as you give them something healthy at each meal and so long as they eat a few bites of it, just know you are doing your best. The rest is up to them. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink — and the same goes for kids. Let go of the power struggle and just give them the healthy food anyway. If they eat it, awesome. If they do not, the world will not end today.

Dressing appropriately — This is the first battle that went out the window at our house. There’s still a battle about clothes all the time but it’s between my girls and not me. I leave dressing — including coat choices — entirely up to them. Sometimes they match. Sometimes they mesh with the weather. Sometimes it all goes crazy and that’s lovely, too. And because I intervene so little, those very rare moments when I do have to put my foot down make a very real impact. In fact, letting them make their own decisions is something we strongly practice and have for years.

Screen-time — Boundaries are important when it comes to screen-time but that doesn’t mean it has to be a battle. Simple rules like “You can watch TV when X, Y and Z are done” or “You can get on the computer during our family tech-hour or quiet time later today.” Or, you may not watch TV on school days. Giving in is also important on letting go of this power struggle. Really, screen time doesn’t hurt in complete moderation.

Going outside – Don’t just holler “Go outside!” If it’s so awesome … why aren’t you outside? Instead of a power struggle over getting fresh air, be a role model and pick up a few resources that make being outdoors fun. Make it a game or a challenge to see how many fun things you can do outside. But, seriously, being in nature is awesome … spread that love to your children but don’t force it.

Reading – There are so many great reasons to sit and read a book … if you’re an adult. But, for kids, this isn’t always true for all. So stop nagging and start encouraging and motivating. Don’t make it a battle. Make it fun. And, by all means, sit down and read yourself — in the middle of the day, or at dinner. Promote your own value on reading and it will pour through without the nagging.

Talking Back – This is crazy talk now, I know, but I go back and forth with this myself. In the end, I just go silent and walk away. It’s not worth the power struggle. Plus, follow this rule: It’s better to be kind than to be right. Again, modeling is the key. The less you push it, the quieter it becomes and that makes for a more peaceful home.

Saying sorry – Another hard one but it’s far better to teach a child to make up in their own way than to force a fake, inauthentic sorry. So, let go of this struggle and show them really fun ways to make amends like making a snack or picture for their sibling or writing a sweet note to dad.

Cleaning up – I don’t know any person who hasn’t had to deal with a power struggle over cleaning. In fact, most of the women I know harbor a ton of resentment for the amount of crazy cleaning they had to do as kids. So, why not put away this power struggle once and for all and just make it a family fun project. Work together for the better of the family rather than “Do it now or else.” Set the timer, blast the music and get cleaning. If your kids are like mine they may even utter, “I love cleaning” before it’s over. Swoon.

I’d love to hear about your own power struggles — those you’d love to let go or those you’ve already kissed good-bye, for your own sanity. Or, what about a power struggle from your childhood that still bothers you now?

 

24 Responses to 8 Power Struggles Parents Should Let Go (and why)

  1. I totally agree we need to pick our battles…. as hard as it is for me to see some of the horrific outfits my daughter puts together, it’s just not worth the power struggle. Great advice and reassurance.

    • Shawn Ledington Fink says:

      Oh, I know .. those outfits. So cute though how they figure it out on their own.

  2. Liz Gurnee says:

    I let go of the dressing battle many years ago, yay! But for some reason, I feel the need to almost literally follow my kids around and pick up after everything they do. I say it helps me to breathe when there's some semblance of order, but there's no order, it's always messy. This creates more stress, because I'm not only picking up after them or ordering them to pick up throughout the day, but it's useless because it's always messy so I feel like I'm wasting my time. I would LOVE to live among the clutter and be able to breathe, and to sit down and "play" rather than thinking ahead to the mess I'll be clearing.

  3. Jennifer Gable Brent says:

    I'm right there with you!

  4. pineconesandpineapples says:

    It’s a great list!! Mealtime is probably where I need greatest margin of improvement. We have gotten better, but still…need to improve on this one.

  5. I agree with you. My kids are grown up now, my daughters are happier than my son, he was the first child and I had no experience of letting go.

  6. Can you try to just pick up once or twice a day instead of all day, every day? I usually do one big cleanup before bed but at our house you can't do many things unless you've picked up your messes. They don't like that rule but they follow it and I don't have to nag. J's room is always messy. That's her style. When it gets terrible, she and I work together. :)

  7. Janet Dubac says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am really grateful for this amazing reminder. It is indeed important that we pick our battles. With all the things that we need to get through everyday, it will just add up to the exhaustion. Thank you for sharing this post!

  8. Kacey Madden says:

    My husband & I can't agree on this very thing of having the children a little more independent. When he does come home from work, I have my Child show him something they did & he is impressed about their independency!

  9. [...] For some really good ideas on how to avoid power struggles with your child, read: ”8 Power Struggles Parents Should Let Go (and why).” [...]

  10. I agree with this post and enjoy the idea of letting go. :) The only battle I'm not willing to let go of, but am not sure how to tackle, is teeth brushing. Any suggestions? I've tried games, singing, magical timers, being stern, etc. but nothing seems to resonate. I also remember it being a not a big deal when I was younger; however, hard my parents pushed I still refused to brush my teeth. Now, obviously as an adult have painfully found the drawbacks of not brushing. ;) So any suggestions would be great. ;)

  11. Luxurious Latoya says:

    Thank you. I had a few great laugh out loud moments. After 5 years, I can say that I am blessed that my son is great at all of the 8 things, yet it has been an uphill battle. One thing, I found very useful was, whenever my son throws himself down on the floor in a tantrum, I threaten to do the same. He then responds with; "Oh NO Mom, your going to embarrass me!" It works every time.

  12. Emily Berg says:

    I still can't believe you are a mama….In my mind you are always going to be that hot 18 year old cruisin Hawaii

  13. Luxurious Latoya says:

    Oh, that so sweet. I miss you so much, HOTNESS!

  14. Emily Berg says:

    I miss you too! Come visit me in the bay…bring baby

  15. Luxurious Latoya says:

    We definitely will soon. How is your late September looking?

  16. Shawn, I absolutely LOVE this post! YES YES YES! These are "everyday" kinds of struggles that we can let go of. Seriously.

    I talk to parents all the time about things like this. I invite them to ask themselves, "Is this a big deal?" And to rate it 1-10. This gives our brains an opportunity to put things in perspective and a chance to "cool off" from being triggered.

    Your suggestions here are powerful. They help us to focus on what is most important — CONNECTING. Correcting happens AFTER we connect.

    Beautiful, Shawn. I'm sharing on the Barefoot Barn's Facebook page.

    Blessings,
    Lisa A. McCrohan

  17. Mel says:

    Love this. A great reminder. Silly as it sounds, I need to let go of the drinking-the-bath-water battle! It drives me nuts, but really it’s not that big of a deal!

  18. Jennifer Fischer says:

    This is something I learned from my mother. I think of her and often find myself thinking – Is this worth a battle? Often, the answer is no. Some things are, but many more are not. Setting boundaries and expectations clearly and modeling the behavior I want helps so much too as it can stop the battles before they start. It can be easy as a parent to micromanage and end up with battles over things that really don't matter. The other day, my boys wanted to wear jeans, long sleeved shirts and costumes over their clothes on a hot day in SoCal. I let them knowing that soon enough, they would be hot and realize they needed to change, and they did.

  19. Sheila Gillespie Smith says:

    The best thing about this post was the emphasis on the parent being a good role model. Children want to act like grown ups. If they see us enjoy healthy food, outdoor time and reading, they will see it as a treat, not a punishment!

  20. Debbie Sullivan-Bruno Dalton says:

    Great advise.. usually not learned til you're the grandparent :)

  21. Cara Tavaglione Calderone says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I really needed this today. :)


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Shawn Fink - Abundant MamaFrom Our Founder

I created The Abundant Mama Project to inspire overwhelmed, busy mothers to slow down and let go of the worries and concerns that are holding them back from experiencing joyful motherhood. Read More »
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