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How To Avoid Power Struggles With Teens

The ‘WHEN-THEN’ technique worked really well to stop the power struggle with our teenage son.

Isn’t it frustrating seeing how some children simply listen to their parents and do what they’ve been asked, without arguing?

If you’re wondering how to stop these power struggles with your teen, then I might have an answer for you.

I’ve recently been immersing myself in Amy McCready’s Positive Parenting Course, and one of the lessons that we’ve implemented seems to be working quite well.

The best way to avoid power struggles with teens is to set a very clear expectation of what you want them to do. Link this to a privilege that will be delayed if not done on time. Then walk away, stay calm, and let them learn from the natural consequences of their choices. By using this technique you’re giving them the power to complete their tasks at the right time.

How To Avoid Power Struggles With Teens

Give clear instructions so that they know what they need to do.

The ‘WHEN-THEN’ technique is one of the many tools that Amy teaches in her course.

The ‘WHEN’, is a very clear instruction as to what you expect them to do. i.e. do your homework.

The ‘THEN’, is a privilege that they really enjoy, and are entitled to i.e. join your friends at the mall.

You need to state the ‘WHEN-THEN’, in a calm and clear way, and then walk away.

“WHEN you’ve finished your homework, THEN you can join your friends at the mall.”

By staying calm and walking away, you don’t allow them to get into an argument with you. Which they will obviously try doing at first.

When we first started the ‘WHEN-THEN’ technique, they would whine or ignore us. But very soon, they realized that we were serious.

We didn’t argue with them. Just stated the facts, and waited for them to do what was asked.

Our eldest son ignored us (well he said that he hadn’t heard what we said). When it was time to join his friends at the beach, and he hadn’t finished his homework, he was super upset.

We ignored the pleas and whining, and repeated the ‘WHEN-THEN’ clearly and calmly “When you’ve finished your homework, I’ll drive you down to meet your friends at the beach”.

He finished his homework and did get to join his friends, although he was late, and missed some of the time that he could have enjoyed with them.

I truly believe that because he knew that we wouldn’t budge on this, he now does what needs to be done, and we don’t argue (often) anymore.

The only times that he might still argue is if he doesn’t really mind the ‘THEN’ not happening. However, Amy has other tools that we can use in those situations.

Not every tool can be used in every situation, so we’re still learning which are best to use when. However, this one has definitely stopped the usual whining and constant nagging from our side to get things done on time.

The one thing I would highlight as being important is that you give them enough time to do what is asked of them and that they understand it clearly i.e. they actually heard you and received the information. My boys (and my husband) often need a second to focus first, so that they can actually hear me.

The other tip to avoid power struggles with teens is to walk away so that they cannot argue with you. I found this more useful with our youngest, who is whinier. However, by walking away, there can be no power struggle. If you walk away, the potential power struggle ends. They can either choose to do it or not. If they don’t do it, then they don’t get the privilege that they wanted.

This is where you need to stand firm and stay calm. You can even show sympathy. “I’m sorry that you didn’t get to see your friends at the beach today. I’m sure that next time, you’ll get your homework done in time so that you don’t miss out again.”

The key is to stay calm. Don’t take on any guilt or blame. They knew what was asked and didn’t do it. You’re not controlling them, but the situation. You’re giving them the power to complete their tasks at the right time.

How To Avoid Power Struggles With Teens

Teens need to understand the natural consequences to their choices.

Steps To Avoid Power Struggles With Teens:

  1. Give clear direction of what is expected of them. This is usually a chore or task that they need to get done on any given day.
  2. Link it to a privilege that will be delayed if the task is not done. The ‘THEN’ must be something your child truly cares about – soccer, going online, playing with friends.
  3. Walk away once you’ve asked them to complete their task. They cannot negotiate and or start an argument if you’re not there. Walking away also allows the child to save face – empowering for them to make their own choices.
  4. Use a calm voice and don’t allow yourself to be pulled into a power struggle. Having an attitude of indifference diffuses any possible power struggle.
  5. Stay firm and follow through. You have to stay firm. You cannot give in. If they haven’t done what was asked, then don’t take them to the beach to join their friends. Don’t help them to do their chore, or rush to get them there on time. If you do this they will realize that you can be manipulated.

Empowering them to make their own choices and then having to deal with the consequences, teaches a great life lesson. Teens need to understand that there are natural consequences to their choices.

Remember that you cannot control people, including your children, but we can control the situation. This technique provides a motivation to complete the undesirable tasks and includes a built-in consequence for not completing the task.

Also, note that these are not rewards or bribes. You should never reward a child for doing what is normally expected of them (homework, chores, tidying away, etc).

We’re not saying “IF you do this, THEN you get..” By saying ‘WHEN’, it gives a clear message that you believe that they WILL do it. Saying ‘IF’ feels like there’s a question or choice to be made.

These are natural consequences, to participating in things they’re looking forward to if certain things are or aren’t done on time.

Lastly, it’s important not to let them get extra attention from you by whining and complaining. Try to ignore it. It’s a tough one, as we feel guilt or get upset with their attitude. This is a life lesson that we need to learn, regardless of the situation.

I hope that this has given you something to try at home.

Watch a video summary of this article below:

If you want more awesome advice from Amy, then she has a FREE class that you can attend online at any time.

You might also like to read How To Stop Teen Back Talk

 

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Written By

As a mom of two boys, I've been through the many ups and downs that parenting brings. However, I absolutely love reading and learning about better ways to communicate with my teens. I try to understand what they might be going through in their various stages of development. Communication, understanding, kindness, respect, and leading with love can help us maintain a positive bond with our children, from toddlers to teens and beyond.

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