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.
More posts about this
How to avoid power struggles – Choice
Three Alternatives to “Look Me In The Eye”
Pick Up Your Toys!
Great advice. Thanks!
The frustration every parent’s face! I think actions really do speak louder than words when it comes to parenting. Our children look at what we do, and they do it. For example: “NO SHOUTING IN THIS HOUSE” will not teach our children to use quiet voices.”Stop hitting your sister when you’re angry” is not a command that will be followed by our children if it is accompanied by a parent slapping a child for hitting (or biting, or anything else physical). What I and my wife do is that we don’t demand everything NOW! Instead, we get their attention, explain what we are after, and set a mutually agreeable timetable. It might be today, it might be within an hour, or it might be in the next five minutes. But we don’t demand it now unless it needs to be done now.
I have read a few of your articles and have tried following them. I need your help with this, when we give him the two choices he says one (usually after we have given him a time limit) and then when we are following through with it he then says the other choice. What is your suggestion on how to handle this, do we follow through with his first choice? This is what frustrates me, he then proceeds to yell for mom or dad afterwards. Do we ignore it or answer him? I’m lost on what the right thing to do is before I lose control. This is everyday we are going through this with him and I cannot take it anymore. PLEASE HELP!!
My 15 month old grandson is a sweetheart, but has a mind of his own. He knows the meaning of no, but will continue to open the cupboard and toss things on the floor until I physically move him. Then he immediately returns to start again, screaming as I move him. I try to have toys nearby, but he must love the drawers and cupboards. I’m no stranger to child development, aside from parenting/grandparenting I taught Special Education for 18 years. Any suggestions? I’ve been looking for drawer stops, but my husband isn’t fond of the idea.
We have 5 children and 2 of them are very strong willed. Both highly intelligent and have no care in the world for anyone else in their home or the things around them. They do not feel they should have to keep things cleaned up or do any work for that matter. They only do for them and only if they get something in return will they consider doing extra.
They say the most hateful things to their siblings and yes to their father and I. We have tried everything and they do not care. They also compare themselves to one another and place blame on everyone else. It is not fair for the other children to constantly be treated so badly. They also never take/accept responsibility for anything. Outside of the home they have everyone fooled! They also truly believe they are correct..
Kara – I have 2 of 4 children that sound just like that. I would love to see what has worked for you in making it better. I feel terrible for my other kids and they are getting terrible examples from these two.
Yes, I have a child just like that he’s six!! I’d also love to hear some input!!