One of the best ways to avoid power struggles is to let others have the last word. Though difficult to do, it is an effective way to de-escalate a situation – especially when dealing with your own children. I have always struggled practicing this strategy, as I have felt as though I was letting my son “win” by not responding immediately when confronted. However, as my wife has reminded me on numerous occasions, sometimes you have to lose a battle in order to win the war.
When your child talks back and you sense a power struggle beginning, step away and address comments at a later time when you both are calm. “It’s okay to be angry. I get upset, too. It’s not okay to say, ‘you’re stupid’ or ‘I hate you’. We need to talk about how to handle things differently next time.”
Interactions between parents and children often develop into habits. So, don’t allow “last words” to push you into habitual power struggles. Although your knee-jerk reaction might be to “lower the boom” when kids talk back, a better option is to model the behaviors you want from your child. Calm conversations and teachable moments will strengthen positive behaviors faster than any punishment-oriented consequence.
Have I mentioned how important this strategy is when dealing with teenagers? Critical.