Avoiding POWER STRUGGLES with Teens

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by auntalva, Jun 15, 2009.

  1. auntalva

    auntalva Adoptive Single Mom of 2

    My 16 yo difficult child and I are both strong-willed. At our session on Saturday, the family therapist told me that we need to avoid power struggles. How do we do that?
    I mean, I know about the notion of giving her two choices, so she will feel that she has some control, but is there any other technique? (I think "control" is a big issue her, because she is adopted and initially abandoned by her birthmother, and so it is hard for her to allow herself to be dependent and to trust anyone becauser she does not feel secure in relationships. Thus, self-reliance and autonomy might be a coping mechanism for her.)
  2. tatay180

    tatay180 Tatay

    I know what you mean. I have an adopted 15 year old son that I also have power struggles with. Sometimes I can't think of two choices that are both acceptable to me, and certainly I can't think of them very quickly. Like what about when he stole $200 from me? Not a typical behavior, but what do you do with that?
  3. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    Oy. Power struggles......such fun.

    We have that in our house too and I'm not always successful in dealing with them but I do try. The options technique is a good one but it can be hard to come up with options in the heat of the moment. In those cases, I would have a list of rules and options made up and known ahead of time. For example, rules A,B&C are non-negotiable. These are the biggies in your house either for your own ethics/morals or safety reasons. (No stealing, no running with scissors, no playing on the highway, etc.) Rules D thru F are generally ones that we should stick too but could POSSIBLY be negotiated but would depend on the circumstances.....that type of thing. That way, there is no question of what is expected of EVERYONE in the home but there is also room for compromise/negotiation depending on the circumstance. Even the best laid plans and rules can go awry and need adjusted in unexpected situations. In the 16 year old's case, maybe there can be some kind of compromise between the two of you regarding her need to be in control (lack of trust) and your parental responsibility. But at the same time, you ARE the parent so she will need to earn these ....for lack of a better term....privaledges. Know what I mean? It's a tough situation when there are struggles like this so you'll just have to work out a system or set of rules/expectations that work for your household.

    Tatay....You may want to make a seperate post of your own about that so any responses don't get lost in the mix. However, stealing is a biggie for me and my husband. I don't know the situation so I can't comment much but I would say off the top of my head that your difficult child work off the money or lose some big things as punishment. That isn't a behavior that you want to let him off easy. (Not that I'm saying you did...I don't know what you did.....but it should be dealt with in a way to make an impression on him.)
  4. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    When I think power struggle, I also think of the good old piece of advice, "choose your battles." Many times power struggles with my girls when they were teens were over things that really just didn't matter in the long run, so I let them go. Clothing is one that comes to mind, so was hair color. What types of things are you struggling over?
  5. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    I have been thinking about this post, and what I came up with is what CrazyinVa said. You really do have to pick your battles.

    The example that comes to mind quickly is difficult child's room. It goes from clean to a sty in about 30 seconds flat. But, it's her space (as long as she's not damaging walls, etc). I don't have to live in it and it lets her feel like she has something that is just hers. And since I've stopped caring about it, she wants to keep it clean more on her own. It still becomes a sty quickly, but she'll clean it on her own when she gets tired of living in it.
  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    In my house, the connotation "power struggle" has a much more serious meaning than most....

    My daughter enforces her will in every circumstance, in every situation. Even her teachers have told me they cannot give her "group" assignments, because she just bosses the group around and the assignment is done the way she says it should be done.

    In year's past, tdocs have advised me not to enagage in 'power struggles' with her and that these strong-willed tendencies as a child will transform into "leadership qualities" as an adult.

    These days, I'm not so sure....

    difficult child is so self-centered and has such a sense of entitlement--she is absolutely convinced that her way is the ONLY way. It's going to get her into trouble.

    I've been wishing that our therapist had a few ideas about getting difficult child to practice "compromises" and looking at situations from other's point's of view instead of just advising us to "avoid the power struggle".

    What sorts of things are you struggling with?

  7. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    As others said, Pick your battles and practice skills on the less threatening ones.

    I think one thing important when your kids are in their teens is learning a new way of communicating. I wasn't very good at this but looking back on my horrid mistakes with Diva, I would like to suggest practicing talking with the non-important issues so the important ones will be easier to confront.

    Start setting up the "let's talk about this" habit with the easy all in favor decisions. However, you need to find a way of talking without it seeming like you are drilling. Teens don't like to give out info, even info they don't care if you know or not.

    The "let's talk about this" time is to have your child assure you that he/she really is comfortable with this, is aware of any dangers, and has answers for the the most common safety issues.

    Always discuss the situation BEFORE you give your answer. If you know it will be "yes", you still have to have that habit of discussing. Otherwise once you start explaining your side, your child will think it is a "no" because the "yes" was not there right away and he or she will automatically go into defensive mode. Get them in the habit of listening to your reasonings before giving or withholding permission. In the habit give them an opportunity to have input on how they see your reasonings.

    As with everything, much of what you do is being absorbed by your kids even though you don't think so. You will wake up one day when they are in their 20s or 30s and they will behave as if they actually wanted to do what you were trying to get across.

    Don't know if that would actually help but it would be the next thing I would try if I could have a redo with Diva.

    I have tried very hard to always talk to my kids with respect. Very trying with a strong willed teen. I admit I wasn't the best at this. However, Diva is starting to come out of a very long severe ugly teenage years stretch and actually is talking to me in the same "I am trying to keep my cool and respect you" attitude I used on her all these years.
  8. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    A book I found very helpful when my Youngest was a teen was "Yes, Your Teen is Crazy" by Michael Bradley. It's geared more towards TTs, but, some of the strategies are helpful with difficult children, too. Plus it's just a good read... Dr. Bradley has a great sense of humor! Heres the link on Amazon:

  9. auntalva

    auntalva Adoptive Single Mom of 2

    Okay, well . . . so I talked to MY therapist today about this issue, and she asked why do I feel that I have to have the power in this relationship? Why do I need to be 'in control'? After all, during adolescence it is normal for children to seek independence and autonomy. Just give her the control, relinquish the power. The most I can do is coach her, calmly and (without emotion or invested interest) explain and inform her about what I know about which actions have what consequences, and why I believe one choice has better advantages than another, but then, let her decide what to do. (Within reason, of course -- We're not talking about anything dangerous or unsafe.)

    As a parents of teenagers we need to 'detach' and not take everything so personally. If the child is disrespectful or defiant, it often is not about ME; rather it may be something hormonal, or frustration, etc. going on in the child's life, for which the parent was not the cause nor has any responsibility and which cannot be fixed. But just give her some space, and be patient. Perhaps walk away during the moment of intense feeling or conflict, and wait until later when everyone is calm to explain your reasoning, try to honor and really listen to her opinion, because after all, she does have one foot in adulthood, and will appreciate it if I try to treat her more like a young adult and less like a child.

    I dunno . . . I guess a change in parenting style is needed when they reach this stage!
  10. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Auntalva, after reading your last post, I want to reiterate the book recommendation... because the author talks a LOT about what you are talking about. It really helped me look at things differently when my daughter was a teen. Good luck!
  11. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think that makes a lot of sense if you are talking about power struggles over fairly normal teen behaviors. Homework, cleaning their rooms, clothing, hair, choice of most friends, eating dinner with family...things like that.

    Now if you are talking about dangerous stuff like cutting school, criminal activity, drugs, hanging out with much older people, abuse, refusing to take medications...well...then I think we have to just be parents. My way or the highway.

    But I think if we let them have their say in the little things, it is easier to fight the big battles.
  12. jbrain

    jbrain Member

    Hi Auntalva,
    I agree with your therapist. When my dtr was about 15 her therapist also encouraged me to be more of a collaborator and it certainly helped our relationship and also helped my dtr feel more in control. She was abused by her older sister when they were younger so being in control is a major issue with her. I backed totally away from homework issues, bedtime issues, all that. I have seen her grow and learn to make better choices because she is learning from her own mistakes. She spent the summer between 10th and 11th grade having to make up a bunch of incompletes in order to go on to 11th grade. I did not nag her, I did not tell her she had to do it, etc. It was her decision whether she would get the work done or not.

    After that she realized she did not want to spend another summer having to do schoolwork. I was not the bad guy, it was just a natural consequence.

    In this role I can sympathize with her--"wow, it's too bad you feel so tired today" (after she is up til the wee hours on a school night). I'm not the bad guy who made her go to bed, I'm not lecturing her on what a bad choice that was, etc. I am trusting she can learn from experience. (Of course some difficult children don't seem to learn from experience or they have to do the same mistake hundreds of times before they "get" it.

    I have found this way of parenting to be so much less stressful and it puts the responsibility where it belongs--on the teen's shoulders. They find it much harder to blame you for their mistakes if you don't take responsibility for them and you don't rush in to prevent them (unless it is something dangerous of course).

    Good luck!

  13. compassion

    compassion Member

    DammitJanet, That is where I am at currently:dangerous activities. What I am doing is picking the three most pressing issues: taking medications, checking in with me, and being safe with her rages. I have not seen her since Tuesday, have not heard from her :husband got a hold of her last evening.
    I am trying to recoup and rest today.
    I cannot reason with her. Any feedback? Compassion
  14. Jena

    Jena New Member


    i've come to learn and slowly i might add (brick on head is the way i like to go) that i do not engage in the power struggle, or at least try not to.

    i have basic house rules, and set times for curfew now. i do the options at times dependent upon the situation yet i find that works better wtih the little ones the older ones not so good because their ability to bargain and debate i've come to learn is much better lol.

    my daughter 16 will ask for something i will say no and i do actually give a reason why, she than comes back with why not or i dont' think that's fair, etc. if i feel strongly i stand my ground and say i'm sorry yet that's the answer and if she keeps going i say to her ok i'm done with this topic now and i am no longer listening and i walk away. intended ignoring it's called and umm i like it. she'll try to bait me a few more times and i breath through it and go to do something else than eventually she'll give up.

    they bait us so quicklly and easily it's so hard at times to realize we're already engaged in it when we are, :) at least for me! gotta love teenagers.........................................................

    i wish you luck. i also spend time with her each week doing something fun could be as simple as a movie at home yet i'm finding by spending time with her it lessens the longivity of the issue and also the intensity of it on her end and i'm better able to cope as well.

    it's def not easy.
  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Compassion, I know you had your dtr in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for awhile. When my son was that age he was also in and out of placements. If my son had left my house and stayed gone just out doing gosh knows what with gosh knows who....he would be found and dragged back to my house. At that point, his caseworker would have been notified that things were not safe again. Mine wasnt a runner. Well, take that back... he ran from group homes back to my home...lol. But he would have had to leave my home once again if he was doing something that I couldnt control and he failed to comply with house rules. It happened over and over again from age 12 to 17. Now? Cory doesnt think we were as hard as we probably should have been...LOL.
  16. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Certainly pick your battles. Detachment. These do work well with teenagers. They are truly trying to get their independence. It almost seems like a natural way to separate the parent from the child. By the time they are 18, you are ready for them to go and so are they. Much easier than dreading the day they move out.

    I would also like to add that you should truly, truly pamper yourself during these years. It is amazing how draining a teenager can be. So, be sure to get some 'ME' time in.