Avoiding The Power Struggle By Not Competing For Control

Empowering Kids By Talking Less

We all know the gray part of the sock goes on the heel, right? But does it have to? Keener prefers to put the gray part on top of his foot and it takes every ounce of my being to not jump in. On the one hand, I want to teach him how to “correctly” put his socks on his feet. On the other hand, who says I know the best way?

As a parent, I have been quick to jump in and impose my wisdom. You’re not doing it the right way. But what is the right way? I have started realizing that my brain works for me the same way Keener’s brain works for him and Grace’s brain works for her. While I want to expose them to a variety of learning styles and ways of accomplishing the same task, I want them to make decisions for themselves. And the only way that is going to happen is if I get out of their way.

A goal I have been working on is stopping myself from imposing my way on my kids. Before, I would have immediately jumped in on the sock example and said, Keener, the gray part goes on your heel. You have to turn the socks around. Here, let me show you/do it for you. Instead, I have changed my role and find myself saying, Keener, most people find it more comfortable to put the gray part of the sock on your heel but you do what feels right for you. 

Notice the difference? When possible, I am giving him more control over his decisions and trying to insert myself less. Of course, when safety is an issue, this approach doesn’t happen. But when it comes to an everyday difference of how I would do something, I am finding we have far fewer power struggles when I am not imposing my wisdom.

A great example was leaving the park the other day. As you can see in the picture, there is a gate, wide open, that my husband, Grace and I all walked through to leave. Keener decided to hop the fence. It made more sense to me to walk through the open gate, but not to Keener. And I had to actually tell myself not to say a word. We all left the park in peace, regardless of how he made it to the other side of the fence.

By empowering our kids to make their own decisions and choices, they are learning what works and what doesn’t for themselves. If he gets blisters from wearing his socks upside down (or right side up if you ask him), I would suggest an alternate option. But overall, I am trying to view myself more of a coach/teacher/observer rather than an omniscient parent and we are both benefiting immensely.

This post is a follow up from my post a few weeks ago about my biggest parenting realization so far. Check it out in case you missed it!


  1. I applaud your approach to hopefully modifying Kenner’s unique style for putting on his socks. I think you are absolutely onto something recognizing that this is not about the sock routine but more about control. And most likely if you assert your dominant authoritative position as a parent probably feeling, “I’m not going to let him get away with this” the more he will probably resist from this position of “I only count when I get my way.” (consequences won’t deter at this point) This is, as you’ve identified, a classic power struggle. At some point I am hopeful, even confident, that Keener will decide that the discomfort of “doing it his way”is no longer worth it since the payoff is gone. “Taking the sail out of his wind” so to speak. Great stuff, once again!

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