112. Are you parenting the wrong issue? (Power struggles and problem solving)

Today I a sharing a shift I have made in my parenting that has made such a big difference – when I teach it to my coaching clients they have an ‘aha moment’ too – because we might not see that we are often parenting the wrong issue. 


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This is especially evident when we find ourselves in power struggles. We are taken out of the original problem and into all of the mental chatter and drama around the power struggle. 

The power struggle of getting kids to sit down for the meal 

In this episode, I’m explaining how I apply this to a real-life example that moms experience: wanting the kids to sit down at the table for dinner. 

Focussing on just wanting our kids to LISTEN. We just want compliance – and we spend a lot of effort trying to just get them to listen to us – and now we have a power struggle

This is turning the simple issues of parenting into bigger, harder issues 


What happens when we are in a power struggle with our kids?

When we have a power struggle over our kid’s ‘obedience’ we sink into a story about how they don’t listen to us and don’t respect us. 

This narrative can make us feel unconfident in parenting, it is exhausting and it makes the relationship feel hard and heavy. 


Problem-solving the real issue

Come back to the real issue we are dealing with. And start to problem solve from there. 

I’m offering the questions I ask myself and my kids to handle this issue of getting up often during mealtime. 

Related: Episode 84 How parenting with empathy can transform your relationship


The value of family mealtime

I want to come back to the root of why this matters to me. Why do I want family mealtime? How much work am I willing to do to make it happen in the long term as we all grow the skills of getting better at it?


Making mealtime more engaging

  1. Hard and Awesome – asking each kid what was hard today? what was awesome today?
  2. Trivia questions – we make them up or have alexa ask some
  3. Q+A a day book – from this great book we got from my SIL


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are you parenting the wrong issue, power struggles and problem solving


Hey friends, it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and my coach from simple on purpose.ca Welcome to the simple on purpose podcast. This is the place where we talk about slowing down, and living life on purpose, living it with intention, instead of on autopilot, and autopilot used to be my speciality. So I know both very well – life on purpose and autopilot.

Many of you who listen are moms and I love to hear where you’re listening, some of you are listening while doing chores. Hey, Melissa, some of you are listening while driving to work. Hi Jisha some of you are listening went on a walk. Hi, Julia. And I just really love hearing from you real people who are listening. So whether you email me, tag me on Instagram, or leave a review in iTunes, I just really love to hear from you, the person, the woman with this in her ears right now. So I’m really glad you’re here.

It is spring break here in Canada. And I just took a week off of work to be with the kids while my husband was at work. And I just really wanted to do things with them to not just sit around because I mean, we’ve been doing that for a year where downtime is usually TV time. So I’ve been trying to embrace any sunshine, we get, you know, go skating, go to the park, go on mini hikes, go to the library, and playing way too much monopoly, they’re getting very good, and they’re beating me. And I’ve just really been trying to sink into being present with them. And I’m going to talk all about that in this week’s simple Saturday’s email, if you are signed up for that, you can read that there. And if you’re not super easy, just head on to the website and join. S

o now dad is home, the kids are running around outside, you’re probably gonna hear them in the background, which is fitting because today we’re talking about motherhood and approaching it more simply and more purposefully.

Today, I’m going to share a shift that I’ve made in my parenting that has made such a big difference. And when I teach it to my coaching clients, I hear that this is like an aha moment for them. Because many like me, they just didn’t see it. And that is parenting the wrong issue. Trying to parent my child by focusing on the wrong issue than when that isn’t going to help me or them at least not long term.

Alright, so I’m going to give you a real-life example that I know a lot of you can really do. And that’s the situation where we’re having dinner, and asking our kids to sit at the table for dinner, like the whole time on a seat in front of their food. But they get up they fool around.

And most times, I asked my kids to do something, the one who most often doesn’t do it as my youngest. For context, he’s six, the other two are eight and just turned in. So it makes sense that the six year old is the one who’s not listening as much.

So dinner is a common issue. And like all parents, I just want compliance. We just want our kids to listen, right? This is what we want. And I think this desire for compliance for obedience, it can be a weakness that we might not see. Because then we might find ourselves, bargaining for it cajoling, trying to convince them or we get mad, and we threaten. And now we have this power struggle. So we all know the situation, you want your kid to sit at the table, they keep getting up, you’re asking them to sit down, and they’re not listening.

So now what? When our kids don’t listen, and I know when my kids don’t do what I asked them to do, and sometimes even go that step farther and defy like do the opposite of what I’ve asked them to do. What I started assuming from that is that they’re not listening to me. They’re not obeying me. They don’t respect me.

And now I’ve turned this from an issue of a kid sitting at a table to a character issue of them and their obedience and their ability to respect me. And I’ve made it a really negative issue about what it means for our relationship. So now I have this issue of motherhood, and our relationship with me and my child and this child, and it just feels hard and heavy. And now I’m mad at them. I feel personally offended by them.

And I’m telling you this because I’ve lived for a lot of years, with this story in my head about my kids not respecting me and I had a lot of evidence for it. I mean, our brain wants to prove what it believes is true. It’s going to seek evidence that it is right. I have a lot of evidence that my kids don’t respect me.

And I parented from that place. It was exhausting and defeating because when you have the story going on about how you’re disrespected, it changes how we look at our kids. For me, it changed the confidence I have in myself. It changed my experience. I didn’t enjoy parenting, when I don’t feel respected this whole thing every day showing up for motherhood. is an ordeal. And now I’m moving into victim mode. Maybe I’m even feeling helpless.

And you know what I realized it isn’t the issue that I should be parenting. It’s the secondary issue I created for myself. And it’s an issue because now this is a sore spot for me, this hurts kids who don’t listen, kids who don’t respect me.

And if I pay attention, I can start to see the ways that I will try to manufacture situations where I can get compliance, just to feel like things are easier, where they’ll just listen, they’ll just want to listen. But when I do this, now, I’m not engaging in parenting, I’m not teaching us all skills on how to deal with conflict and consequences. I’m pressing the easy button here. And no shame if you are here, because from what I’ve experienced, I know you’re doing the best you can, and you’re just looking for some relief. So no shame.

But I want to share this with you so that you can maybe peek over the edge and see that there’s another way that we can approach this. Because when I press the easy button, I know that I’m moving further away from the mom that I want to be.

So this has been a realization that I’ve had in my parenting over the years, I can see how power struggles have become a daily, maybe hourly occurrence. And I see how I’m parenting the wrong issue. And not to say that this isn’t an issue worth addressing. But it’s pulling me out of the original problem, that original problem of kids sitting at the table. Before I made it about obedience and respect. It was about a kid sitting in a chair for a meal.

So let’s go back to the original problem we need to solve. And how do we solve this problem? In my experience, the most powerful question that we can address to solve this problem is why? One thing that has helped me grow as a mum is paying attention to why my kids are doing what they’re doing. And I can imagine why. Why because they don’t respect me. Why? Because they’re not listening. Why? Because they’re not obedient. And I can go down that train. But I’ve gone down there and it’s not a really happy ending, I don’t like to jump on that thought train and run away with it.

I want to come back to what else is true. So why don’t you want to sit child? Why is it hard? Why do you keep getting up? And I can answer that on my own. Like, if I’m doing it from more like loving and open minded place. I can remind myself like they’re six. And that’s not something that they’re just interested in doing. Right? Like he’s a six-year-old. He doesn’t want to sit at dinner.

But I can also ask them, why don’t you want to sit at dinner, and they can tell me they’re bored. They’re just so excited dad just came home, they want to show them everything. They just want to play, they’re not actually hungry.

And you know what, I’m not hearing his disobedience and disrespect. What I’m actually hearing is kids who just aren’t there yet, like really, most of the time, they just don’t have the skills to sit through the meal when they’d rather do other stuff.

And if I’m honest, I can relate like sitting patiently doing something you don’t want to do eating stuff you don’t want to eat. When there’s other things that feel more exciting. Like it’s kind of hard. Like, isn’t that what most of us adults are doing? When we’re turning to the food we actually do want to eat or picking up the phone because we’re bored. Like, I can kind of understand that.

The other issue I’m hearing is, it’s not their priority. I mean, eating vegetables versus playing Lego, like their kid brain. The decision is obvious what they should be choosing, and they’re wondering why we don’t understand. But all of this, asking why and starting to step back and listen to them what’s going on for them, and just being like, okay, practically speaking, should a six year old, my six year old be able to sit at dinner? Well, history tells me No. But all of this is good news to me. Because it feels like these reasons I can address I can have conversations with them about what’s coming up for them.

I can teach them skills. And this sounds way better than a power struggle and all of the mental chatter about respect and obedience. Okay. And this is all interesting, right? But you’re probably wondering, okay, what does she actually do for dinner, or her kids actually sitting through dinner?

So I’m going to tell you, first of all, my kids still get up. But I expect it and the kids of all ages Get up. I mean, I get up to sometimes at dinner, so I just expect it. I don’t make it a big fight. I do ask them to come back and sit in their spot. And if they keep getting up, I asked them what are you doing? or Why? Where are you sitting? and not with? Like, why aren’t you sitting which is what I’m thinking in my head. But we’re like, why aren’t you sitting? I’m curious. And I just want to listen to them. I want to listen to what they have to tell me.

So maybe they’re going to be like I just want to play Lego. I’m really not that hungry or it’s hard. I keep forgetting. And then I tell them I get it. Like it’s hard to remember or it’s hard when you want to play Lego, maybe you should put the Lego away. But still, you have to sit until you’re done. And I’m coming back to being the parent, I want to be like, I’m still the parent, there’s still standards that we’re setting.

But all in all, what happens when I just express being curious about what’s happening for them showing a little bit of empathy is the seem to chill out. And if you want to hear more about that, listen to Episode 84. How parenting with empathy can transform your relationship.

And sometimes even I just give them permission to leave like, if you’re done, clean your dishes and go get pajamas.

The other thing that I brought into this, because I know that they don’t want to sit through what feels boring. So we try to be more engaging at dinner. And we ask a lot of questions we ask what was we do hard and awesome. It’s what we call it. What was hard today? What was awesome, we do trivia we like do trivia through Alexa. And we have this really fun q&a a day book that we got from Aunty Leah, where I asked them a question each day. And I tell them what they said last year. The other night, they also went around the table doing Marvel trivia questions, I didn’t really have anything to offer. But they had fun with it, and it kept them engaged.

Because this whole thing, eating dinner, this is what I want it to be togetherness, nourishment, conversation, tradition, blah, blah, blah, this is what I wanted. This is what I call being a mom on purpose, knowing the values that I want to bring into my motherhood, knowing the vision I have for myself, as a mom and working on doing that.

This is what I’m here for.

And it’s not going to look perfect, and it’s not going to feel easy. But I’m going to pour into the parts that are available to me. And these parts are small, when you have smaller kids, you get smaller doses of togetherness and connection and conversation and all of that. But we are working on the skills of sitting down for a family meal. While accepting –  it means accepting – that it’s not going to be 100% their learning. And I can see that it gets better and better as the months pass.

So I hope this experience my experience is something that helps you just look at things a little differently when you’re falling into power struggles. Are you parenting the wrong issue? Do you need to go back to the original problem and do some problem solving. Because I think it can really change how much you enjoy parenting. When you start to step out of those stories that feel heavy and hard. And no one listens to me and I’m not respected. It is really hard to be the mom you want to be a mom on purpose when you are coming from that place.

So if being a mom on purpose is something you want to learn more about, this is something I’ve coached on for years with moms all over the world. It’s something that I’ve taught in their life on purpose Academy. And I’m really excited to tell you a new way that you can get mom on purpose support. That is the mom on purpose boot camp. This is a two day boot camp. And it’s going to be held on April 22 and April 23.

There’s going to be an hour of teaching and then an hour of live coaching. So you can bring your own motherhood questions and issues or just listen in, if that’s kind of your thing.

The topics we’re going to cover in that Bootcamp, the root of frustration in motherhood, cuz we’re all frustrated, we’re yelling, we’re stressed and we’re not loving that feeling, how to show up with more peace and confidence, turning off that autopilot of stress and frustration, enjoying motherhood, stepping into that, and knowing your personal values and motherhood, what they mean how to use them to show up on purpose, how to handle the hard days and more.

I know all of this is information that is going to lay a really strong foundation that’s going to take you from surviving to thriving and the live coaching. It’s going to help you take the lessons from just being insightful and interesting to how to actually apply it and put it into your actual life. These will be power hours times four because we’re going to meet for two hours for two mornings.

If you want information on that if you think this is something you want. Then follow the link in the show notes to find out more about the mom on purpose boot camp. And if you want more information, you can email me directly or find me on Instagram and messaged me there I’m at simple on purpose.ca Alright guys, it has been a pleasure. Have a great week.


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