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Unplugging Power Struggles: Resolving Emotional Battles With Your Kids

by Jan Faull Parenting Press, $19.95/$13.95. Battling for Control: Helping parents avoid emotional warfare.

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If it weren't for all the power struggles that occupy my eight-year-old daughter and me on a regular basis (like the one involving the lemonade stand early this Sunday morning), you'd have read this review two months ago. That you are reading it now is a clear indication that I do not always come out on top. (Lemonade, anyone?) That is why I leaped at the chance to read this book, Unplugging Power Struggles by Jan Faull.

As adoptive parents learn, the struggles often take a special twist as a child tries to leverage her situation with shrieked comments such as: ''You can't tell me what to do! You're not my real mom!" Although this book never specifically addresses adoption issues, it does provide worthy advice for coping with power struggles and understanding why they happen.

"Power struggles are emotional battles between parents and children over who is in control," states Jan Faull in Unplugging Power Struggles. The tension is only natural, she points out. A parent's job is to teach, train, influence, and guide a child. A child's inclination is to barrel headlong toward independence, without all that pesky supervision. The result is often a battle of wills, with dollops of screaming and tears on everyone's part.

In this slender volume, Faull explains why power struggles happen (out of parents' safety concerns but also often because of unrealistic expectations) and offers scenarios about how to head them off or cool them down. The healthy course of action, she advises, is for parents gradually to turn over power and control in ways that are appropriate to the child's age and development, while preserving the family's values and protecting the child's safety and health.

Faull offers advice on a range of common issues, from homework to hairstyles. As with any advice book, beware. The suggestions all sound simple and doable, but they are not necessarily intuitive. And it's unlikely that your youngster will always respond like the children in the examples. When a power struggle arose at our house recently, I tried an approach similar to one offered by Faull. But my daughter responded differently from the featured child, and I was on my own, proving one of Faull's key points: Parents learn by trial and error.

My daughter is nothing if not persistent. As she and two chums set up the lemonade stand at our house, I overheard them debating weighty issues-how to price a product fairly, how to spell (quarters, not kwartrs), how to share equally in the proceeds. Their enthusiasm taught me a quick lesson: When life hands you power struggles, make lemonade.

By Martha Groves, an adoptive mother and education writer for
the Los Angeles Times.

2001 Adoptive Families Magazine.  Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 

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