Having a defiant toddler can feel like you are losing all of your power, especially if you are engaging in power struggle and find yourself giving in or walking away as the “victor” but not feeling good about the interaction. Every parent wants to feel in control with their children but sometimes they make it difficult to be the empowered parent you always wanted to be. Here are five tips for you to disengage in power struggle with your toddler.

Negotiate to achieve Win/Win
During conflict, one side is attempting to get their way or assert their desire over the other person. What if you decided to come from a win/win stance and look for ways you and your child could benefit? If you are fighting over bedtimes, you want him to get sleep and he wants to watch one more episode of tv, what is the win/win? If he watches one more episode, will you be able to complete one more work assignment? When you work towards win/win, both keep leave the conflict with a sense that they mattered and they were able to negotiate what they wanted. Can you think of a situation where you could have negotiated win/win and had an amicable outcome?

Do something completely unexpected
Is your child throwing a temper tantrum about something? Why not turn on the music and dance! Do something unexpected and see what type of response you get. It will probably confuse them in the beginning and then show them that you are not willing to go into power struggle. They will be forced to do something drastic themselves in order to meet you on your new level. They might even start dancing with you.


Try using one word
Your child doesn’t want to go to sleep again despite your many reminders? Try saying one word: bed. Repeat it strong and assertively but do not engage in dialogue with them. Do not allow for power struggle to occur with words. Use one word to signal the desired behavior and once they realized, again, that you aren’t going to go into power and control with them, then they will be given the choice to follow through with the request.

Give options and choices
If your child is generally defiant, then give them options. Would you like to wear the pink or purple shirt? Would you like to go to the park or the pool on Saturday? Giving them choices on a regular basis will help them to feel like they are a decision-maker in their life and thus allowing them to let go for the need for control.


Teach them to be powerful
If we teach children to be powerful, they will not need to try to control situations in their life to be powerful. They will naturally feel like they have influence on the things that happen in life. They will develop into strong leaders that know how to influence people without defiant behavior. Have your child look in the mirror every day and repeat powerful affirmations as a reminder of their worth.


Again, being the parent of a child, especially a defiant one can be taxing. Remember to look for ways to get out of power struggle with your child, which is probably going to be a new concept for both of you. You and your child will have the opportunity to do something different during periods of high stress. How much easier would your life be if you and your child lived together in cooperation versus powerful struggle?


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Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at