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Children Want to Feel Powerful

Young children seek out opportunities to be powerful. As a wise person once described this, children want “agency.” Children want to be in control, and will often resort to any means to get it. Trying to potty train a child who isn’t ready or interested? Your favorite chair could be the site for the next accident. Do you want your child to eat his peas, his least favorite food on the planet? I can assure you that you will find peas in many places except your child’s mouth. (This includes his nostrils!) Is your child more of a beta than alpha in school? Anticipate superhero idolization to happen.

Children want to be powerful because they feel so little in a big world. One way to help a child feel in control is to give him control over some daily decisions. For example, allow him to choose his clothes. (Who cares if they are the same pair of striped, stained sweatpants everyday?) You can also provide opportunities to use big body movements to crash and bang. It is best if this crashing and banging happens on soft objects such as big pillows, rather than on people.

Allowing a child to have some control (agency) over his world reduces power struggles and misdirected power grabs such as soiling a favorite chair. As teachers, we can provide safe ways for this exploration of power, making it positive for everyone involved.

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