Introduction to Power Struggles

The first step to addressing a power struggle is to recognize when you are in one. Power struggles generally happen around tasks such as getting ready for bed, getting homework done or getting everybody up and out of the door in the morning. In parenting, a power struggle is defined as a time of the day that typically goes poorly. It’s a pattern that goes poorly often enough you may dread that time of day. If you just had difficulty today, but it’s usually smooth, that’s not a struggle it’s just a bad day.

If it truely is a power struggle, often the second step is to realize what you are doing as response is not working. If getting ready for bedtime is a struggle, likely you are chasing children around the room, yelling and wrestling them into their jammies. This is you participating in the struggle which validates it to be a push AND is likely repeating discipline patterns that aren’t working. The idea, once you realize you are in a struggle is to step back and change what you are doing as response. I am not saying give in, I know you have to get them dressed and ready for bed or feed something for dinner. I am saying change what you are doing in response. Shake up the dynamics of the struggle.

In power struggle moments rely on setting clear boundaries, positive directions, catching good behaviors and using contribution, choices and consequences. Use techniques to step out of the struggle rather than chase them around and struggle back.

To learn more about these techniques, join me for a morning workshop on managing power struggles. This is being held on Saturday, April 21st. For more information and to register, please visit

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

2 thoughts on “Introduction to Power Struggles”

  1. Dr. Rene. Thanks for posting this. My husband has power struggles with our almost 4 year old at the dinner table and in the bath. I don’t think the bath can be resolved as she has never been a bath lover; however, my husband is constantly telling our kid to sit up, put her napkin on the lap, not to slouch, eat with fork, etc etc etc. I personally think my kid’s table manners are fine and age appropriate; however, my husband is constantly picking and clearly not winning the “battle.” I told him tonight about your thoughts on power struggles and he asked me what he could do instead. Should I sign him up for your Saturday morning class? It is not an ideal time since we have an out of town guest…

  2. The workshop does sound like a good match. I’m sorry the schedule doesn’t fit. We do also cover this information in either our 1-day/5 hour or series 8 hour positive discipline workshops. He would be welcome to join us then instead. The full schedule of workshops is at, click on Parent Workshops then View Schedule. If not, I hope we’ll have the smaller Power Struggles class on again in the fall.

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