How to Peacefully Diffuse the Parent-Toddler Power Struggle

5. Give them control in the situation. Five minutes are quickly up and now it’s showtime. Maybe the time-warning method worked (are those angel voices you hear in the sky?) or maybe he gets upset that he has to turn off the TV. He wants to watch TV, and you are forcing him to do something else which makes him feel like he’s lost control. This is an opportunity to give him back some power. You can teach him how to turn off the TV and do it together or if he’s ready, he can do it himself. You might ask him which shoes he wants to wear and allow him to choose for himself. The idea is to give him control within boundaries that you have set for him.

6. Be aware of your own needs and simplify. If you are running late to get out the door and you know your little man hates to put on his shoes, now is not the best time to ask him to put them on independently. This is bound to become a power struggle. You don’t have the time or patience for this at the moment. Instead, maybe you divert his attention from the TV to racing you to the garage door. Or you let him pick out a fun snack for the car and you grab his shoes and put them on for him. Structure and boundaries are awesome. But life happens and you need to know how to modify without overhauling a rule-remember consistency is also key.

7. Switch with the other parent or caregiver. When we are aware of our own feelings and realize that patience is dwindling down, it’s better to tap out than blow up. If kiddo is struggling to listen to Mom in that moment, it’s okay for Dad to takeover. Visa-versa. The key is for the parents to maintain a united front and not to undermine one another. When Dad steps in, he continues where Mom left off. Sometimes, switching off with a refreshed parent is enough to make progress.

8. Give encouragement, not only praise. You got your little human into the car with shoes on and not a tear was shed. This feels amazing! It’s easy to say, “great job!” or “thank you!” We also don’t want him to think he is doing you a favour by taking responsibility, right? So how about, “I noticed you put on your shoes when it was time to go and I really liked that.” Little kids love to please their parents and feel recognized. When we say “we noticed”, we are telling them that we recognize when they make an effort. We value their initiative and it makes us feel happy. Not only are you giving a constructive compliment, but you are connecting with him. Encouragement is so powerful and feeling a two-way connection is priceless.

Power struggles are a normal part of our toddler’s development and journey of growth.

I understand how difficult it can be to stay cool and collected through this season of parenting-I have two toddlers at the moment, so I completely understand.

However, there are tools that make these challenges easier to work through. It’s not black and white. We can have it all. We just need the right ingredients that work for our family and lifestyle.


Anisha Pandya Patel is a Certified Parent Coach-Consultant, writer, and proud mom of 3 little boys. She finds herself feeling most authentic when she integrates East and West for a balanced lifestyle. If you happen to catch her flying solo, she is either drinking a good cup of coffee or creating a funny parenting meme. Get the “Recipe to Live Your Best Momlife” and book a free consultation. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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