No More Power Struggles

The Peaceful Parenting Newsletter
Issue #30

A free e-mail newsletter from Naomi Drew

A problem is like a pebble. Hold it too close to your eye and it fills the whole world and puts everything out of focus. Hold it at a proper distance and it can be examined and properly classified. Throw it at your feet and it can be seen in its true setting, just one more tiny bump on the pathway to life.

Celia Luce

Dear Friends,
First I would like to thank you for your many notes and comments generated from the last issue of Peaceful Parenting on guilt. It seemed to have struck a very powerful chord. Please know that if you have been harboring guilt, you are absolutely not alone. I received more responses to this newlsetter than any other, ever!

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who have reached out with invitations for me to come to their states on the Hope and Healing workshop tour. The response has been huge! To those of you I have not been able to schedule thus far, please accept my apologies. Right now I am scheduling for the fall, so if your school, PTA, PTO, parent group, place of worship or place of work would like to schedule something, please let me know as soon as possible. For a look at other workshop topics I am offering, please go to

Many warm thanks to all of the wonderful people who have hosted me in their areas. It has been a pure joy meeting all of you!

As I have been traveling around the country, one common concern has come through loud and clear - power struggles. Parents from every walk of life are often driven to distraction by struggles with their kids, be they 2, 12, or 20. What a familiar ring all your stories have had! Each time I hear one I remember the power struggles that went on in my own house. So today, we will visit this very timely topic, and below you will find practical guidelines for lessening, and perhaps even eliminating power struggles with your children.

Sit back, enjoy, and as always, remember you are the key to peace.

Many blessings,



Here are eight powerful steps that will help you cut back on the power struggles that go on in your house. Please let me know how it goes when you try these out, and good luck!

1.If you want your child to behave differently, know that your behavior must change first.

Ask yourself what you may be doing that reinforces power struggles. No guilt here, just, ask yourself the question objectively. One mom I talked to noticed that whenever her son dug his feet in, she dug her feet in too. As he got more stubborn, she got more stubborn. Thus the power struggle was kept in place, and inevitably grew.

If you find yourself digging in each time your child is obstinate, try this instead: step back, take a deep breath, and for just a split second, ask your wise self what to do. The answer might be to back off a little, or to offer a different choice, or maybe to just give a consequence.

Sometimes we dig in our heals strictly from habit, and what we end up struggling over is so not worth the energy. For example, maybe it really is not such a big deal if little Susie wears her bedroom slippers to the mall. Will it really make a difference in the quality of her life or yours?

By taking a step back, breathing, and tuning in to the wise self it becomes easier to make this determination.

2. Have several (not more than four) clear, consistent standards and limits and stick by them under all circumstances.

Here are the ones we had in our house :

* No physical fighting.
* We listen to mom and dad when they tell us to do something.
* We speak with respect even when angry.
* We are honest.

That was it. The rest could be negotiable, depending on the circumstances. Too many rules set us up for power struggles. Several solid consistent standards form the foundation of a peaceful home. This along with fair consequences give our kids solid ground to walk on. The key here, is that WE need to honor our own standards if we expect our kids to do so. For example, if physical fighting is not acceptable in our house, it is not acceptable even when someone has a great excuse, or when Mom and Dad are too tired to give a consequence. Our most important standards must be golden.

3. Find places where you CAN compromise.

Rule of thumb: anything that relates to the safety or moral development of your children is not the place to compromise, but other areas like clothing, shape of their room, when to do homework and chores, are places you might want to consider. Make every NO more powerful by balancing it out with YES. When we find ways to compromise on the not so big things, we save our clout for when it really counts. Most important thing to remember: only compromise when you are comfortable doing so, not when your child has worn you down. (This is another place where deep breathing really helps.)

4. Be creative.

One of my favorite ways to prevent power struggles comes to me from friend and author Meg Cox, whose upcoming book on family traditions will be released this March. Meg shared this brilliant ritual with me:

Have a YES jar. When your child asks you to do something (within reason) and you need to say no, have her write down her request and put it in the YES jar. If your child is to young to write it herself, you can do this for her. Allow the slips of paper to accumulate, then, once a month or so, have a YES day where you allow your child to choose a few slips from the jar and you say yes to all of them. So, if Katie wants to wear her Cinderella costume all day long, on YES day she gets to do it. Or if Henry wants chocolate donuts for breakfast, on YES day he gets to have them.

This takes the edge off the times we have to say no, and allows our children the delicious feeling of looking forward to eventually being granted their wishes.

5. Offer alternatives.

Here are some examples:
~ For a child who is resisting doing his homewor, say: You can either do your homework on the floor or at the table. Which do you prefer?

~ If your child resists going to be, try saying this: You can either go to bed in 10 minutes or 15? Which would do you choose?

Then set the timer. When the timer goes off, bedtime. If your child is unhappy, blame the timer.

6. Include your children in family decisions.

Have family meetings where you discuss areas of difficulty. Get feedback from your children on how they think the problem can be solved. As a family, arrive at a few agreements. Write them down, have each person sign them, and post them in a prominent place.

Ask your children to suggest reasonable consequences. Come up with a few together. Children are far more apt to honor rules and accept consequences they have had a part in determining.

7. Acknowledge good behavior.

This is the gold standard for reinforcing the positive, especially with children for whom consequences seem to have little impact. Speak to the high self in your child. Expect him to behave well, and then sincerely compliment him when he does.

Sticking to your standards and compromising where you can, combined with sincere acknowledgment of good behavior is far more powerful than countless reprimands. Make behaving well happen because it feels good to do it.

8. Tune in to your wise self. You have the answer.

We all have a high wise part of ourselves that knows what to do, but too often this part of us gets lost and muted in the tumult of life. Set aside a few minutes of quiet time every day where you can close your eyes, breathe deep, and ask your wise self to the provide solutions. For some people, the wise self appears in the guise of a person (it could be you or someone else), but for many, the wise self may manifest in the form of a feeling, insight, memory, or even a place. One mom told me her greatest insights were revealed when she focused on an image of a forest. Trust whatever image comes to you during this exercise. The solutions you seek truly are inside of you.


Hope and Healing/Peaceful Parenting Events:

Feb. 4 - 7:30 - 9:00. Peaceful Parenting workshop and signing- Town Center Elementary School, Scudders Mill Road, Plainsboro, NJ . Call 609-580-6500 for details.

Feb. 8 - 10:00 a.m. Creating Peace, Hope, and Healing. Workshop and signing. Saraswati Yoga School, New Hope, Pa. Call 215-862-4520 for details.

Feb. 11 - St Paul, Minnesota. ALERT Peace Educators Conference, Talk and signing. 4:30-7:30 p.m.

Feb. 12- 1:00 - 5:00. Minneapolis, Minnesota Peace Educators Conference. Peacemaking Workshop. E-mail for location and details.

Feb. 13 - 11:00 - 2:30 Talk (books available for signing) The Annual Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College (Augsburg College, 2211 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 554540). E-mail for details.

Feb. 13 - 7:00. Book Signing - The Red Balloon Bookstore, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Call 651-224-8320 for details.

Feb. 19 - Highland Park, NJ. Peaceful Parenting workshop and signing sponsored by Highland Park PTO. e-mail for details.

Feb. 23 - 10:30 pm. Creating Peace, Hope, and Healing workshop and signing. Brothers of Israel synagogue, Trenton, New Jersey. Contact for details.

Feb. 27 - Camden County College. 9:45 - Keynote speech to Camden County peer mediators and advisors.

If your organization or school would like to schedule a workshop or speaking engagement, you can reach Naomi at

Naomi Drew is the author of four books, all available through
Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids (Kensington Publishers)
Learning the Skills of Peacemaking (Jalmar Press)
The Peaceful Classroom in Action (Jalmar Press)
Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World will be released in September of 2002 (Kensington Publishers)

Peaceful Parenting is a free bi-weekly service. Please share this newsletter.

Copyright 2002, Naomi Drew, All Rights Reserved.
This content may be forwarded in full, with copyright/contact/creation information intact,without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format. If any other use is desired, permission in writing from the author is required.

Love and Peace to All of You.


Copyright © 2002 by Naomi Drew. All rights reserved. Site Map