Reduce Power Struggles to Reduce Stress

I believe most theories about the stress and strain dealing with young people of all ages—especially adolescents—have focused incorrectly on such factors as physical changes, emerging sexuality, new social pressures, and struggles between being a child and an adult.

This period is often difficult for both young people and parents. As young people grow, conflicts arise. A prime reason is that the young want to become independent, but adults continue to exert authority with coercion and expect obedience. Attempts at continual control so often lead to counterwill—the natural human tendency to resist being controlled. This leads to power struggles, which lead to even more resistance, reluctance, resentment, and even rebellion.

Parents assume that rebellion is inevitably a function of development. I believe the real reason is that these young people become more able to resist parental power. The typical youth behaves as he/she does from having acquired enough strength and resources to satisfy one’s own desires and has attained enough power to no longer fear the power of parents.

Regardless of age, young people do not rebel against parents; they rebel against the power parents attempt to use on them.

If parents were to rely less on power and more on noncoercive types of influence from infancy on, there would be little left for the young to rebel against.

When we learn how to use authority without coercion, power struggles do not arise. The use of power and coercion to affect change in the young (really, in any person) has severe limitations. These limitations with the young often come before parents realize the power struggles they have created.

Tip: Resist telling, and maintain a mindset of sharing and asking questions to influence rather than to control.