How to separate a parent’s need for power from the needs of children is an important thing to think about. In many situations a parent should be in charge. For example, parents need to be in control when safety is a concern, such as when a child might run into the street. But there are also times when control and power can be shared. During these shared moments, learning occurs.

What children learn about power and control in relationships with parents sets up a model for later in life. If a parent cannot accept a child’s input or needs on any issue, a child can easily decide either that he or she is powerless or that he or she will be powerful no matter what!

When children determine that they are powerless, they are left vulnerable to the strong personalities they will run into later in life. If children decide that power looks like it’s an important skill to develop—no matter what—they can become aggressive, devious, and rebellious.

To teach your child about power and control, establish family rules that incorporate the appropriate use of power. Here are some ideas:

  • Think gentle touch. Each person is responsible for what his or her body does.
  • Use words to express yourself. Tell other people if something seems unjust, and tell them what is needed.
  • Win-win is the best option. Try to find a way to get everyone’s needs met.
  • Power can be positive. Build people up rather than putting people down.

Children learn their first lessons about power and control with parents and siblings. Family rules will help with those lessons.