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Help! My Kid is Driving Me Crazy – Tools of Power

Still being manipulated by your kids to give them what they want?  Then, check out author David Swanson’s formulas for how parents can effectively respond to such tactics.

Here’s the last five “tools of power” he identifies:

13.  Forging the Friendship – “But gee, Dad, aren’t we pals after all?”

In this case, the child “attempts to blur the boundary between parent and child.”  Swanson explains that when you turn the relationship into a friendship the power structure breaks down.  The countermeasure?  Resist the urge to share too much with your child.  Confide in your spouse or friend but don’t try to have your emotional needs met by creating an inappropriate bond with your child.

14.  Character Comparison – “Susie’s parents are cool.  What’s wrong with you?”

This strategy of comparing you to another adult is “used to pressure you into giving him what he wants.”  Swanson insists you mustn’t take the bait.  Stay focused on what is relevant and prevent your insecurities from setting inappropriate limits for your child.

15.  Casting Doubt – “I won’t pass the class if you don’t let me.”

Children often try to get out of doing something by making “you give in to her wishes out of fear that something bad may happen to her is you don’t.”  And while Swanson says “psychologists and psychiatrists take threats of self-injury seriously, even if it may appear that the child is only seeking attention,” the most important thing for you to do is be consistent.  Your child simply needs to know you understand her and will protect her.

16.  Glorification – “This is the only chance I’ll every have to do this.”

Swanson explains this strategy “by which your child pleads that an object or activity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with the hope of evoking an anxious yes from you.”  While it’s important the you “resist restricting legitimately major and meaningful events in your child’s life,” try not to fall victim to exaggerated claims about outcomes.

17.  Surprise Attack – “When all else fails, catch Mom off guard.”

“When your child hits you with a plea when you least expect it, making it difficult for you to say no, she has launched a Surprise Attack,” Swanson argues.  This works because it makes you uncomfortable.  “What your child does not count on is that you will be secure enough to put your foot down and risk negative reactions from the people around you.”


Ultimately, Swanson identifies the five reasons children use these power tools:  to obtain love, attention, and nurturance; for self-preservation; to bring about a self-prosperous condition; to gain a sense of empowerment; and to even the score.  Then, the book ends with a thorough offering of additional ways to respond base on your child’s temperament:  the self-doubting child, the impulsive child, the oppositional child, the low-tolerant child, and the anxious/insecure child.

Still, I found these two reasons for why you never want to engage in psychological combat with your child the best.  “First, children have much more stamina and will simply outlast you, and second (they) are simply better at the game than you are.”


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Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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