The Problem With Using Power to Resolve Conflicts With Children

Updated: Nov 12, 2018

Using your parental power to change the outcome of a conflict you are having with your children can be at the very least, quite tempting. After all, who has the time and energy to sit down and problem solve every little struggle that arises? It’s second-nature for us as humans to often revert to using short cuts, or in this case, using power to get something resolved fast and easy.


You might force your son or daughter not to listen to certain music, but you can also be sure that you aren’t having an influence on their musical taste whatsoever. Using your psychological size as a threat can be quite effective, but as most of us know, comes with a high emotional cost. By making your child behave in ways that would reflect values that weren’t their own, you are also creating resentment, anger and ultimately, emotional distance in your relationship.


On the other hand, the power of influence has a much stronger and lasting effect. Modeling in particular is the strongest form of behavioral influence that parents can have with their children. When you are an exemplary model of your value system, you are providing your child with an option for how to live their own life, without giving the lecture. This leaves the option and trust in their hands to make their decisions the way they best see fit. And since people all grow and evolve in different paces, the process is a natural one. With this method, you won’t run into resistance as you will when trying to use force and you are much more likely to yield a real change.


When you use power methods, not only are you revoking your children of having a choice, but you aren’t allowing them the opportunity to practice critical thinking, problem solving and flexing their own judgement. Power methods say to your child that since they are not trustworthy or intelligent enough to make decisions on their own, you will be making decisions on their behalf. Additionally, without the real-life practice to solve problems on their own, you might consider how might this leave children to be prepared to deal with problems as adults?


Some might say: “But it’s for their own good and they don’t know any better.” I can’t help but point out the correlation here between how parents can relate to this in terms of boss versus employee, husband versus wife, or even society versus government . How many decisions have been made on our behalf because it is for our own good and what does that do to us internally? 


With this in mind, I hope parents will begin to reconsider their course of action the next time they feel the urge to force their child into something which they have not chosen themselves.

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