We've all been there—the dreaded power struggle with your teen.Unfortunately, these power struggles seem to grow exponentially as teens enter middle school and push boundaries, especially when it comes to social media and technology use. And a lot of the tools that seemed to work in elementary school when they were kids no longer do.
So how can you avoid these power struggles that leave you both with a pounding headache and you fearing the next blow-up?
When I was in my first year of teaching middle school, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and did just about everything I could to avoid a power struggle. I never wanted kids to be mad at me—I tried to be their friend, to elaborate on rules with them, and I often bent those rules for my students.
But one time, I caught one of my 7th graders trying to ditch my Leadership class and go hang out with her 8th-grade friends. I immediately instructed her to get back in the classroom. She, of course, did not. I then told her I would call her mother, to which she responded, "I don't care, go ahead." So the power struggle ensued. Eventually, the administration got involved, but let me tell you: It was ugly, exhausting, and made me feel like a failure as a teacher.
One of the senior staff heard what happened and said "Oh honey...well, that's your mistake! You didn't give her a choice, which escalated the situation. Here is what I would have said the moment I caught her trying to ditch my class: 'You can come back in class within the next 10 seconds or I can call your mother. It's your choice.'"
What makes this so effective? Giving your teen a choice between two options will:
They may not be happy, but they'll make a choice, and you both can move on without a power struggle.
Are you currently struggling to navigate power struggles between you and your teen? Share with me a question or recent power struggle, and I'll respond with tools catered to your specific needs.
Wishing you a weekend free of power struggles!
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I am a teen-empowerment coach. I work with teen girls, ages 14-17, who struggle with self-acceptance, perfectionism, seeking attention from others, and deep sadness or anger.