The Power Struggle Continues

Bill Bounds

If your child is anything like my little girl, they’re clamoring to find where their lines are drawn and how much control over anything they have. This often manifests itself in rather loud ways and bitter arguments between you and your child. (If your child isn’t like mine, they probably will be soon.)

Lately, our girl has begun making very spur-of-the moment decisions about what she is and isn’t going to with respect to things like going out to dinner or going to the store with us. As my wife and I are getting ready to leave, she will just say, “Daddy, I’m not going. I’m going to stay here by myself.”

Initially, we’d respond by telling her she was going to go with us, she’d scream, the situation would devolve and my wife and I would both find our happy place. Soon, I realized this approach was sub-optimal and was only playing into her need to be in control of a situation.

Similar to my earlier article on calling my little girl’s bluffs when she was refusing to do something she was supposed to do, I started calling her bluff here. She’d say she was going to stay home by herself and I’d say, “Okay, we’re going to dinner, feed the dog and no toys while we’re gone.” I’d then head for the door.

Almost immediately, she would start yelling, “I’M GOING!! I’M GOING!!” But to make sure I took back control over the situation, I would her she wasn’t allowed to go now because she’d said she wasn’t going. If she was going to go, she’d have to ask nicely. “Daddy, may I please go to dinner with you?” she’d ask.

I’ve found this approach keeps the peace of the house and the noise levels inside the car down to a manageable level and this simple act of calling these bluffs, I believe, helps me to take back some of the control and remind her who’s in charge.

I haven’t yet figured out what to do when she starts calling my bluffs.  

Bill Bounds is the author of Forty Weeks of Keeping Your Head Down,  the story of one man’s journey from “guy” to “father” and all it took to safely make it across that particular finish line. The trip wasn’t always fun, wasn’t always easy and wasn’t always pretty to look at, but it was a great one!