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How to avoid arguments & power struggles

Spending extended amounts of time at home together as a family, particularly over the festive holidays can result in some big emotions and sometimes arguments. How can we try to stay calm rather than lose our cool and be drawn into those struggle?

1. Having a phrase or response to use when you find yourself being drawn into a struggle with your child can be very helpful. ‘I love you too much to argue with you about this’ allows you to reinforce your support whilst stepping away from the heat.

2. If your child is having an unreasonable melt down or is battling against a decision you’ve made, try recognising their feelings rather than meeting them with ‘because I said so’. If your child is desperate to stay up late, have chocolate for breakfast or is refusing to turn the iPad off, try saying ‘I know you really want to X right now, it feels really mean that I’m saying no. I know it feels hard.’ This type of response can often help soften the situation rather than exacerbate it; we still stick to our decision but we recognise our child’s feelings.

mom holding her crying child

3. When your child is having a big emotion and is at the height of arguing back, the rational part of their brain will not be working. It’s important to remember this and to know that trying to reason with them will often be unsuccessful. When our child is in this state, we also get triggered as parents, which means that in turn the rational and calm part of our brain is not working at capacity either which can add to the struggle. It’s not always easy, but by pausing so we respond rather than react, we can try and avoid that power struggle.

4. Being aware of the specific behaviours our child does which trigger a certain feeling in us, can be helpful. For example, if you become enraged when your teenager stays in bed in the morning or when your child leaves their toys out, it’s helpful to understand this pattern. Addressing these behaviours in the moment when you are experiencing a big emotion is unlikely to be productive. Find an alternative time to discuss these things with your child, when you’re feeling calm.

5. Spending a lot of time together as a family, particularly over the festive period can involve more time than usual watching TV, being on screens and devices for the whole family. Be aware of how this can impact mood, energy and may result in some short tempers! It’s important to try and get outside and encourage the whole family to get regular fresh air. This can help to recharge and change the mood.

Our Brilliant Me & My Feelings online sessions help children age 5-7 learn to recognise, name and respond to a range of big feelings. Click here to find out more about these sessions including a range of others for children age 5-11. Click here to find out more about our online courses.

Louise’s recent IGTV on this topic can be found here.

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