Power: Avoiding Struggles

The Nia House parent and teacher community gathered on Saturday morning to discuss power, empowerment, and different ways to create a family culture that fosters positive communication and peace.  

Seeking power and empowerment, we learned, is a very natural and healthy developmental norm. We all shared some highlights of the power struggles endured in the past week. Perhaps some sound familiar?!

How can we promote empowerment?

  • Approach children and self with a growth mindset. 
    • "Discovered by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a growth mindset is the belief that we can develop our abilities, including our intelligence, which is our ability to think. It is distinguished from a fixed mindset, which is the belief that abilities can’t change, such as thinking that some people can’t improve in math, creativity, writing, relationship-building, leadership, sports, and the like." (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/smart-parents/growth-mindset-parenting_b_6951252.html)
  • Offer genuine acknowledgement rather than praise. (Link: How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The inverse power of praise.)
    • "Research shows that when we praise children for being smart, they adopt a fixed mindset (i.e. thinking that people are either smart or not), and as a result when things get hard for them they conclude that they are not smart and they experience higher anxiety, lower confidence, and lower performance. They also become less interested in learning, and more interested in showing what they already know how to do. While being told they’re smart may make them feel good in the short term, the deeper lesson they learn is that people are either smart or not, and when things get hard, they feel incapable." (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/smart-parents/growth-mindset-parenting_b_6951252.html)
  • Recognize the developmental appropriateness of seeking power. 
    • 0-2: child forms sense of self, including learning to oppose and separate from caregiver
    • 3: child refines separating strategies, defiance is power
    • All children need to repeat for experimentation and to find emotional safety/consistency
  • Understand underlying mistaken goals of misbehavior that lead to power struggles (Dr. Rudolf Dreikus)
    • Seeking undue attention:
      • "I only have value when I am noticed/center of attention."
    • Seeking undue power
      • "I find satisfaction from the determination and effort to get I want."
    • Seeking revenge
      • "Everyone sees that what I did or do is bad, this gets me attention, so I'll keep doing it."
    • Assuming inadequacy
      • "I usually fail or I'm corrected, so why bother- I'll just wait for someone else to do it or help."

A few practical tactics:

  • Side stepping: not fighting, not hurting, not overpowering, not giving in.
  • Choices: offer 2 very positive options, neither of which is tied to fear or intimidation.
  • Useful empowerment: offer increased responsibility and trust.
  • Surprise!: do something unexpected (funny, fun, or silly).
  • & more... Link: Positive Discipline Resources

Remember always to commit to self care! 

Nia House

A Montessori Toddler & Preschool Program serving Berkeley since 1974