September 22

Understand the Mistaken Goal: Misguided Power

Misguided Power occurs when a child feels that they belong only when they are in control. It causes an adult to feel challenged, threatened, angry or even defeated. In these situations, there is usually a power struggle, or an attempt at a power struggle. It is up to the adult to find a way to disengage from this scenario. The authors suggest naming it as a power struggle and recommending that everyone calm down before continuing the discussion, validating the feelings of the student or even inquiring what is going on for the student at that time. In these types of situations, a child is really requesting that they help out or get some choices. Instead of sending a child in to fight, flight or freeze, these options decrease the amount of stress a child feels thus allowing them to participate in group problem solving.


In my life, misguided power seems to rule over us all-both at home and at school. As a staff, we talk about the kids who feel that they have no control over their lives, so they act out,causing power struggles all the time. I can see how giving these students some flexibility by allowing choices could be very empowering for them, allowing them to use their energy in a positive manner- following through with a given option-and allowing them to feel safe, secure and in control.


Can you think of a time that you dealt with a  child operating under the mistaken goal of misguided power? Were you able to positively influence the situation? What did you do to move past the situation?

Posted September 22, 2019 by tiebcmembers in category Positive Discipline

4 thoughts on “Understand the Mistaken Goal: Misguided Power

  1. Elaine McEachern

    Choice and relationships. That’s pretty much what it boils town to in my neck of the woods. Whether I’m parenting my feisty 17 year old son or teaching kids, power struggles are a lose-lose situation.
    As an LAT, I found teachers who struggled with control situations (AKA “my way or the highway”) benefited from a “relationships” layer of support. I covered their class and they left with Student X to focus on building relationships. “Don’t worry about teaching her/him during this time. Just get to know each other. Find out what you have in common, where each other is from and coming from. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a new teacher was from my Mentor, John Tahsuda. “Those kids you find yourself wanting to [neck wringing motion ensues]… it’s those kids you need to convince that you love them the most. By the time you accomplish that, you’ll find they’re no longer an issue.”
    To avoid power struggles once relationships are established, good ol’ choice is my friend. “Do you want to read here or there? Do you want to read book A or Z? Do you want to read 1 page or 5? In the class or out?” Not reading wasn’t an option.
    Finally, I teach the kids to write their own “permission slips”. This is a Brené Brown strategy (#DaringClassrooms). Think of a time in school that gave you the nervous sweats. For me, it was solving math equations on the board in front of god and everyone. I modelled writing the permission slip, “I give myself permission to only solve math equations on the board if I feel comfortable doing so. Like maybe never.”
    Long story short, in Daring Classrooms we explore vulnerability together. When you let go of control and open up to relationships, you’re on the right path. Brene Brown, baby.

    1. tiebcmembers (Post author)

      Sounds like another book I should be looking into! Thanks Elaine! You are so right about relationships being everything! I am noticing just how important that is with my youngest son. He is really struggling in Kindergarten this year, and I think it has a lot to do with him not trusting the people around him to keep him safe and show him love at the same time.

  2. Ilda

    I completely agree. It is important to give teachers time to develop relationships with their students. It is more beneficial to allow the teacher time to work with the student exhibiting challenging behaviours than to have someone come in to the classroom to try to deescalate the situation. Having a discussion with administrators and EA’s about the benefits of this strategy is also very worthwhile. A whole school focus on how we support students struggling to self-regulate.

    1. tiebcmembers (Post author)

      I find that at times, having a whole-school focus is difficult at my school. We have some of the “older” more experienced teachers who refuse to buy-in to new ideas, even though we are all working on behaviour and self-regulation. I wonder if anyone has any ideas on how to help get the buy-in from other staff members?


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