As a previous foster care case manager, I have supported and worked with families and youth who have experienced trauma and have seen firsthand the difficulties that come along with parenting these children and youth. There is no doubt that the aggressive outbursts, hour plus long emotional tantrums, and stress of everyday life can start to take a toll on your patience and understanding. One piece of advice I have is to try your hardest to not engage in a “power struggle” with your children. What is a power struggle? A power struggle occurs when someone competes for control in a certain situation. Although it is easy to do, engaging in a power struggle is not helpful when it comes to parenting children with trauma (and without trauma). Engaging in a power struggle can make the situation more escalated and prolong the disagreement or what initially caused the situation. Below are some ideas on how to decrease the frequency and timeframe of power struggles:
- Give choices: providing choices allows children to have some control of the decisions they are making. When a child is allowed to make a decision from provided choices, it makes it difficult to for them to come back and say they never have control or decisions over a certain topic or situation.
- Ignore what can be ignored: this can also include walking away from the situation if you feel that those involved are too upset or escalated to engage appropriately and safely. If everyone in the household is safe, it is OK to walk away from the situation and ignore the negative behaviors. Not giving into the negative behavior will show the child or youth that the situation is not up for debate. Explain to the child that you will engage when they are calm and ready to discuss their frustrations.
- Explain your reasoning for a certain answer: explaining your yes or no answer is important in helping children and youth understand why you gave the answer you did. Simply just saying yes or no does not provide the explanation needed and will not help them understand.
- Don’t take the behavior personally and actively listen to your child: typically a behavior occurs due to something that is bothering them or from something that happened in the past. You are their safe person, resulting in most behaviors being taken out on you when they feel safe.
This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW