The Challenge of Sharing Power

Mother and son washing dishesUncomfortable Sharing Power?

Some people get uncomfortable when we talk about sharing power with kids, so more explanation may be helpful.

“Sharing power” is not the same as “equal power.” It also doesn’t mean we let kids make all their own decisions. Parents do, and should, have more power than their kids, particularly when the children are young. As parents, we know more, have more resources, and are physically stronger. Part of our job in raising our children is to teach them, guide them, make demands on them, and set limits that help them grow.1

“More power” isn’t the same as “all power.” Though parents have more power in parent-child relationships, our kids also have—and need—power in our relationships. Discovering how we share power in our relationships and encouraging kids’ power to grow as they mature is a core task of parenting.

With that power comes great responsibility to use power with care. This means treating children with love, respect, and fairness without manipulating, coercing, or threatening them in ways that harm them or our relationship. This abuse of power can include physical or emotional violence or manipulation, including withholding affection or approval in order to get our way.

Next Steps

Research Sources

1. Kuczynski, L. (2003). Beyond bidirectionality: Bilateral conceptual frameworks for understanding dynamics in parent-child relations. In L. Kuczynski (Ed.). Handbook of dynamics in parent-child relations (pp. 3-24). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.