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Fostering Social Development In Children Through Empowerment Not a Power Struggle


Caught in a power struggle?

Too often we as parents get caught in the loop of power struggles with our children. A power struggle is defined as: two people who are in a relationship and are both trying to gain control, one person is trying to dominate the other; it creates distance and resentment. We as parents tend to have the mindset during arguments with our children that we must dominate; have you ever caught yourself in this mindset, “I am the adult and my child must listen to me and do as I say”. Of course, almost all parents have said this to themselves, we are entitled to feel this way as we are role models for our children and they have to learn about authority, rules and that they have to do things that they may not like. We are trying to foster social development in children, instil values, beliefs and responsibility in them right from the start. The best way to accomplish this is to remove yourself from the situation and make it a win/win situation whenever possible.

We are trying to foster social development in children, instil values, beliefs and responsibility in them right from the start.

Let’s stop for a moment and look at things from the child’s perspective. Children are being taught to stand up for themselves, be independent, responsible and assertive. We as parents and educators teach them these life skills, we want to ensure they are successful in life and that they can stand up for themselves in this traitorous world. When our children say “ No, I don’t want to go grocery shopping with you” or “ No, I don’t want to finish my dinner” we typically begin a power struggle with them. The next time this happens, stop and ask yourself, is this worth a power struggle?

What does a power struggle look like?

Mom/Dad: Are you ready for your nap?

Child: NO

Mom/Dad: In 5 minutes we are going to have a nap, okay?

Child: NO


Mom/Dad: In 5 minutes I am going to take you to have a nap, do you want me to carry you or hold my hand climbing the stairs?

Child: I want you to give me a piggyback ride, please

As a parent we forget that we also have to empower our children, by letting them be right in an argument or situation we are not failing them or teaching them to be spoiled. We are teaching them to be strong leaders, how to assert themselves, be independent and know when to stand up for themselves.

Here are some ways to empower your children:

  1. Talk to them about everything
  2. Be firm and follow through
  3. LISTEN to what they have to say
  4. Ask open ended questions
  5. Tell them that their emotions/feelings are okay to have and important to express
  6. Let them help make consequences for their actions
  7. Praise and compliment your child

These few tools will assist with developing your child’s self-confidence, self-worth and self- esteem.

Another way to assist child in a positive manner is to have a “Time in” with them rather than a time out. A time out is when a child is left on their own to think about what he/she has done. There are appropriate times to provide a child with a time out. Most of the time they can be avoided by having a time in. A time in is when you spend time with your child during the redirection of behaviour. An example would be if your 3 year old has hit their younger sibling while you are reading them a story. It is clear that the older child is craving that same attention; do not punish them for hitting. Rather, spend extra time with the 3 year old that night and immediately following the incident to demonstrate that you love them and want special time with them too. During this time explain to them that you have to share and that it can be difficult. Tell your child that their feelings are acceptable and next time they should tell you how they are feeling so you can make them feel better.

Here is more information on the subject:


“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

-Anne Landers

How does your child’s temperament play a role in their development?

How important is it to really play with your child?

The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

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If you have a medical emergency, call a physician or qualified healthcare provider, or CALL 911 immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-treatment based on anything you have seen or read on this Website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed and qualified health provider in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

About Amy Gibson BCD, RECE

Amy, having earned a Bachelors Degree in Child Development, has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for the past 10 years. First working in an infant classroom, and then moving to JK, preschool and toddlers. Currently Amy works as a Supervisor of a childcare facility in York Region.

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