Power StrugglesFebruary 11th, 2009 by Patti P
If we keep our eyes open, we find inspiration in the small moments of our life with children, even on the worst of days. Sometimes we must slow down, take a few breaths and regroup to find it, but the wisdom is always there, hidden in the shadows of every moment if we take the time to see it. One of my all-time-hardest parenting lessons—and the eventual wisdom that came with it—involved power struggles.
I used to feel so completely helpless in power struggles. How could this small child, whom I loved so dearly, produce such extraordinary levels of frustration and even rage in me? There were such strong feelings over whether or not she could have another cookie. Weren’t two cookies enough? Why couldn’t she see the reason in the situation? Why couldn’t I? The intensity of my feelings (not to mention my child’s feelings) astounded me at times. Why won’t she bend her will to mine and just make this easier? Doesn’t she know I’m the parent!? Does this really have to be so hard? (There is nothing like arguing with a two-year-old in public to humble a person.)
I used to struggle with these questions until one day I had the revelation that the very thing I was battling against in my child was a trait that I honor greatly in adults. I love adults who persevere against all odds to manifest their dreams. I love adults who have the strength of will to stand up and speak their truth. (They know they want that third cookie and aren’t going to let anyone stop them from having it!) Nevertheless, here I was arguing with my child when she was directing these identical traits toward me. Like a bolt of lightning, insight dawned in my heart. I realized that I didn’t want to squelch these traits in my child, but merely to help her channel them toward more appropriate situations. Suddenly, it became my job to teach when to use willpower and when to be flexible. This enormous will that I had battled so mightily against had many important uses. Why would I ever want to subdue it?
Once I could step aside and see my child’s will for the powerful, remarkable trait that it was, it lost its power over me. My anger magically dissipated with this new understanding. Suddenly, it wasn’t about winning anymore. It was about honoring this magnificent trait in my child and helping her learn to use her will wisely in the world. In honoring my child’s tremendous will, I mustn’t let it rule her life and yet, without the strength of her will intact, she might never reach her soul’s destination. In the end, it’s all about the intention in our heart and the words we choose to use as we reinforce our message. “Yes, sweetie, I know you really hate that you can only have two cookies, but two cookies are a reasonable amount. Asking again isn’t going to change my answer. Let’s read a story instead.”
Respecting the power of our children’s will allows us to transform our feelings about it. We no longer have to conquer it. Like a tai chi master, we simply redirect the flow. Respecting the power of my children’s will didn’t make those times when I knocked heads with my children go away forever, it just transformed how I felt about them and how I responded to them.