Disciplining Kids: The Secret To Avoiding Power Struggles

I listened to a 1-minute video about giving children choices. My issue with choices is when my 3- year old daughter doesn’t make a choice. I ask her calmly to make a choice. She says “NOTHING”. So I calmly say “ok, then I’ll make the choice for you”. I make the choice, and she has fit. I find myself stuck in a power struggle.  She wants control of everything and doesn’t want a choice because making a choice means something is about to happen— a transition, or a change.


Thank you so much for your question. It sounds like you are dealing more with a child who has difficulty transitioning. Also you mentioned that she wants control of everything. That usually means that she feels powerless and she tries to feel in charge by not cooperating with you.

In this case you will want to help her move through transitions and give her some control through choices.

Some children, like your daughter have a hard time moving from one activity to another. They will balk at being rushed and do not like shifting gears.

Children who have trouble transitioning need words to help them describe what they are feeling:

• “You like to be in charge of your day.”
• “You like to be in charge of what happens next.”

It is beneficial to educate her and help your daughter understand what a transition actually is:

“We are leaving the playground in a few minutes. We are going to stop playing with the swings, grab our sandbox toys and then get into the car. That will be three transitions, stop playing on the swings, getting our sandbox toys and getting into the car.”

You can also help your daughter by giving her 5 or 10 minute warnings that a change/transition will take place:

“In 5 minutes it is bath time”

“In 10 minutes we need to leave the park.”

Because transitioning is so hard for her you want to empathize and reflecting her feelings:

“Oh no, you were not ready to take a bath- you wished you had a few more minutes to play”

“You seem sad about leaving the park..”

Then to help her feel in charge and give her the control she desperately wants you can offer her a fun choice:

“Do you want me to use the bath sponge or a washcloth in the bath? Do you want to play with your ducks or boats in the bath?”

“Should we hop or skip to the car? Do you want to go one last time on the swings or the slide?”

It helps if to try to keep your tone fun and light.

In my home, transitions were and still are a challenge. I realized that I am miserable with transitions and have to use all this techniques on myself. On any given day, I have to calm myself down as a I go through transitions.

“Okay, the kids will be home from school in 15 minutes. You need to close the computer and start winding down and thinking about dinner.” I kid you not!

I hope this helped.
Good Luck!