You’re in a fight. A fight with your child..again. All you want her to do is clean her room.
Maybe she just flat out refuses, stomps around and gets angry. Or maybe she plays and does everything else but clean.
You push the issue even harder, she pushes back.
Minutes of non-cleaning turn to hours. You’re exhausted and about to explode! “Just clean your #%#& ROOM!”
It seems like you always fight with her. You say black, she screams “White!”. You say yes, she says “no way!”.
Yes, it’s a power struggle, but it’s more than that. It’s the human condition that we all have, called
Have you ever had someone tell you to do something and you think to yourself “yea right, now I want to do that even less?”
Maybe that person is someone that you don’t really like very much, or maybe they are demanding that you do something right then, on their timeline. Basically, you feel like they are trying to be coerced into doing something. So you refuse, do the job slowly, or just not do it well.
That feeling is counterwill…and it is a good thing for all of us to have, even our children.
A child with a strong counterwill is less likely to walk off with a stranger or succumb to peer pressure. Someone says “do this” and they say “no way”. It’s a great skill to have to keep that child safe. Honestly, it’s something you want your child to have.
Unfortunately, a strong sense of counterwill can make parenting more difficult because they can easily refuse to do what you ask of them.
So how do you get your child to listen to you?
Now we know that counterwill is normal and that it’s a good thing. But, as parents we need our children to listen to us and follow directions. Here’s a few tips to help children comply without losing the counterwill.
Build the relationship first
Children (and adults) are more likely to listen and comply with someone that they have a good relationship with. So, as having a good firm foundation of love and understanding is important.
Spend time with your child doing the things they enjoy. Talk to them about important things, but listen more than you talk. For younger children, play and roughhousing are wonderful for building up a strong connection. Be silly, laugh, goof off.
When a child feels like they have a sense of control in their lives, they are less likely to feel forced into doing something. We are all built with a need for control, so when we feel like we lose that control, we find ways to take it back, usually by refusing to do something.
So instead of demanding things of our children, give them choices. They will feel more in control and less likely to push back. Read this post about choices to learn how to effectively use them.
Plus, when we effectively use choices, we put the decision back on the child and we are no longer forcing them to do something, which triggers counterwill.
The whole “because I told you so” line just doesn’t work when facing counterwill. Pretty much, it makes it worse.
So instead of demanding that they do something, take the time to explain it. “I’m asking you to clean your room because when we leave our stuff on the floor it’s easy for things to get broken and ruined.”
A lot of times, when there is a good reason why we are asking them to do something, and not just because we want them to do it, a child will be more likely to comply.
There will probably be times in your child’s life when they feel out of control and will find ways to push back and exert their will. There’s times like that in all our lives. But, when we understand why our child is acting the way they are, it makes it easier to keep ourselves calm, because we can see why they are acting the way they are. And the calmer we are, the calmer our children will be.
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