How To End Toddler Power Struggles

You request your toddler to hand over your phone, to which she refuses. You request again, and this time, she runs off laughing. Toddler power struggles can make any mom lose her patience and feel exhausted. Maybe, your baby fights you about everything and throws anything within arm’s reach every time she’s upset. Basic things such as eating and getting ready to go to daycare or bed have become a lengthy, frustrating ordeal. You’re tired of her telling you no every time, and it feels like she’s the boss. Forget about getting her to listen because it won’t work.


Nowadays, an argument is inevitable when she doesn’t get what she wants. Time-outs don’t work either, and you obviously can’t spank her. So, you need new ideas to encourage positive behavior or get through the day without a fight. So how do you deal with toddler power struggles? Read on.

Power Struggles Are Exhausting

According to Very Well Family, there are a few issues with power struggles. First, the more you argue or try to force your toddler to do something, the more both of you get angry. And when both of you are frustrated and angry, it becomes harder to achieve anything.

Also, when your toddler can involve you in a power struggle, it often slows down their task.

For example, if you tell your toddler to get ready to go to bed, and she starts to argue with you or runoff, the longer she behaves this way, the more time she’s wasting not going to bed, and the longer it takes you to accomplish whatever you wanted. Your toddler enjoys pushing your buttons to either get out of doing something or get your attention.

Also, when you enter into a power struggle with your toddler, the end goal is to win. Winning for you means getting your toddler to do what you want him to do. And the more desperate you are to get your child to comply, the harder he resists. When you force your toddler to do something he doesn’t want to, he will focus more of his anger on you instead of learning a lesson. So, power struggles aren’t good.

RELATED: Why Ignoring Your Toddler’s Tantrums Doesn’t Work

How To Deal With Power Struggles

When your toddler is experiencing big emotions, it’s your job to bring the calm instead of joining the chaos. Here’s how you deal with power struggles:

  • Don’t panic – When your toddler is feeling intense and chaotic, stay calm even though you desperately want to throw your hands in the air and scream at them, asking why they’re acting crazy. The Military Wife and Mom advises that you stay calm on the outside, even though you’re losing it on the inside.
  • See it from your child’s perspective-The orders we bark are usually automatic, from telling him to go to sleep, brush his teeth, or stop hitting his sister. Then, when they don’t do as we say, we automatically lose our tempers. But what if you look at it from his perspective? What if he’s refusing to brush his teeth after watching TV because he’s feeling sluggish? To you, it seems as if he’s being defiant, making things harder. Maybe he’s hitting his sister because he’s had enough of her taking his toys. Hitting is a sign that he should learn to communicate his frustration better. So, when we shift gears and see what our kids are feeling and thinking, we can change how we present instructions. Maybe we can make it a” race” to brush our teeth or take a minute or two to talk about the show before mentioning teeth brushing. Or, instead of overreacting when he hits, we can explain that his sister is getting hurt and that he can say, “I’m getting angry” instead of hitting his sister.
  • Offer choices – You can offer two choices. For example, ‘Do you want to wear your jacket yourself or should I help you?” “Do you want to watch TV for another 10 minutes, or should we first brush our teeth after the commercial break?” Either choice gets the job done Also, this gives your child some sense of control and independence.
  • Choose your battles – You can sometimes consider letting your toddler face natural consequences. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to step aside and let nature take its course. For example, if your two-year-old doesn’t want to wear her shoes before she goes out to play on the balcony, it may not be worth going back and forth about. Unless it is dangerously hot, you may consider letting her go out without her shoes, and the natural consequence is that her feet may feel really hot. Chances are, she’ll come back to wear the shoes. The point is to make sure that your baby doesn’t get harmed in the process.
  • The closing-your-eyes technique – After making a request (assuming you have a strong connection with your child, and you’re calm), you can play a little game where you close your eyes and then wonder with your child what she’s doing to do. For example, if your child has run off with your phone, you can say, “I’m going to close my eyes, and wonder what will happen if I cover my eyes and put out my other hand… I wonder what Ava will do ? If I open my eyes, and my phone is in my hand, then I’m going to be amazed!” And voila-your toddler will return the phone. According to Pure Wow, this gives your child back control. By turning around, when you close your eyes, you’re simply telling your toddler that she is in her own world and that you’re not making her do anything; she’s responsible for her decisions. Now your toddler has a little more space and freedom to listen and cooperate.

Sources: Pure Wow, Military Wife and Mom, Very Well Family

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