Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Kevin Leman's new book, Parenting Your Powerful Child: Bringing an End to the Everyday Battles (Revell Books, 2013).
Do you have a son or daughter who fights with you often, trying to take control rather than submitting to your parenting decisions? A powerful child’s antics can cause great stress in your household.
But you can put an end to the constant battles by redirecting your child’s power surges in positive ways, harnessing that power for good. Then your home will become a more peaceful place, and your child will grow into the person God intends him or her to become.
Here’s how you can end battles with a powerful child:
Teach your child to be part of your family’s team. Your child needs to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around him or her, but that he or she is simply part of a team of family members who are all equally important. Don’t try to give your child whatever he or she wants, whenever he or she wants it. Instead, consider how your child’s requests affect others in your family, and show your child that you all work together with love and respect for each other.
Keep in mind that your child is seeking attention through power plays. All of your child’s words and actions serve a purpose, and powerful behavior is designed as a tool to get attention. If your child doesn’t get the attention he or she is seeking in positive ways, your child will turn to negative behavior such as power plays to gain attention. So ask God to help you discern whether or not you’ve been spending enough time with your child lately – and if not, how you can change your schedule so you can give your child more attention.
Don’t give in, no matter how hard your child pressures you. While it’s tempting to just give your child something he or she wants just to stop incessant demands for it, it’s never a good idea to give in to demands for something that you don’t actually intend to give your child. For example, if your child repeatedly asks you to buy a toy while you’re grocery shopping and you say “no” for a while but eventually purchase the toy to get your child to stop whining, your child will learn that pressuring you is an effective way to get what he or she wants. The next time your child wants you to do something for him or her, he or she will be even more determined to wear you down in a battle of wills until you finally relent. Ask God to give you the fortitude you need to stand firm when your child pressures you.
Respond rather than react. Instead of reacting emotionally when your child pushes your buttons with powerful words or behavior, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a sense of peace in the moment that will help you remain calm and empower you to think through the best way to respond. Keep in mind that sometimes what seems to be a power play isn’t willful disobedience but simply an immature mistake on your child’s part, such as spilling a cup of milk by accident. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you avoid reacting to your child’s mistakes with too much emotion, since doing so can unintentionally spark battles between you and your child. Don’t let little issues become big issues. Always respond to stressful situations with your child calmly and logically.
When your child starts a battle, refuse to fight. Pray for the self-control you need to resist participating in any battle that your child creates with you. Since it takes at least two people to fight, if you refuse to battle your child, he or she will have no choice but to let the issue go. Remember that no one ever truly wins a fight, since the process of fighting damages relationships on both sides. Keep in mind, too, that your relationship with your child is much more important than battling over any issue.
Be patient if your child is using silence as a weapon. If your child is refusing to talk to you about something you’d like to know more about, don’t pepper him or her with lots of questions, since doing so will likely just incite a battle. Instead, ask God to help you be patient and remain calm, and eventually your child will open up to you.
Lower a stubborn child’s defenses. Ask God to help you approach your child with humility when he or she is acting stubbornly. Rather than demanding that your child do what you say, simply ask your child to consider the issue by saying something like: “I may be wrong, but [present your point of view].” This will encourage your child to think through the issue.
Don’t label your child. Just because your child causes problems with power plays doesn’t mean that he or she is a problem child. Your child’s behavior shouldn’t define him or her; only your child’s relationship to God should do so. Even if your child is diagnosed with a behavioral disorder such as ADHD, he or she still has great God-given potential to contribute positively to the world.
Let your child know you care so he or she will care what you know. Your child will be much more inclined to listen to you if you show your child how much you care on a daily basis. Seek out your child’s opinion. Win his or her cooperation. Allow your child to contribute to your family’s household so he or she will have a sense of belonging and significance. Extend grace and forgiveness to your child regularly, just as God does for you.
Help your child reach his or her goals in healthier ways. Get to know what goals your child is trying to reach through his or her powerful behavior. Acknowledge your child’s feelings, and then speak the truth in love. Redirect your child’s energy into meeting his or her goals in ways that are healthier than engaging in power plays. Encourage your child to discover and develop his or her God-given talents and put them to use to contribute to the world.
Adapted from Parenting Your Powerful Child: Bringing an End to the Everyday Battles, copyright 2013 by Dr. Kevin Leman. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., bakerpublishinggroup.com/revell.
Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known psychologist, radio and television personality, and speaker who has taught and entertained audiences worldwide with his wit and commonsense psychology. A bestselling and award-winning author, Dr. Leman has written more than 40 books about marriage and family issues, including The Birth Order Book, Sheet Music, Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, and Have a New Kid by Friday. He has made house calls for hundreds of radio and television programs, such as Fox & Friends, The View, Fox's The Morning Show, Today, Dr. Bill Bennett's America in the Morning, 700 Club, CBS's The Early Show, James Robison's Life Today, Janet Parshall, CNN's American Morning, and Focus on the Family, and has served as a contributing family psychologist to Good Morning America. Dr. Leman and his wife, Sande, live in Tucson, Arizona. They have five children and two grandchildren. Find out more at www.birthorderguy.com.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: October 11, 2013