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Choose Your Battles

Sometimes it is your fault

A dad I know used to engage every morning in a power struggle with his now 6-year-old daughter over what she was going to wear to preschool. The girl didn't want to get dressed, or wanted to wear a sleeveless dress in the middle of winter, or tights and boots in the heat of summer, or mix the purple plaid with the orange polka dots  -- the specifics changed from day to day. My friend and his wife tried to limit the number of clothing options and tried choosing outfits the night before  -- they tried everything, yet somehow every day started with a veritable donnybrook over the little girl's outfit.

Finally, the proverbial lightbulb blinked on. Instead of wondering why his daughter was locked in this battle, my friend began to think about why he was. He realized that he was more worried about what people would think of him when they saw his daughter's outfits than about any real health or safety issues. If he let go of his need to control what she wore, then the power struggle would be over and mornings would be much happier. And so they were.

Since there's little you can do to change your child's sensitivity, adaptability, persistence, and need for routine, you may for the time being need to adapt a bit. A child who's both emotional and slow to adjust to change, for instance, the way my youngest son, Owen, is, may need a five-minute heads up before transitions (rather than having Mom barrel in without warning to announce that "we have to leave  -- now!").

Still, for even the best-intentioned parent with the most ingenious solutions, power struggles happen. What then?