After many years as a child psychologist, Dr. Beth Grosshans wrote the popular parenting book Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm. A major aspect of Beth Grosshans’ theory is that unruly children often suffer from what she calls an imbalance of family power, or IFP.
Difficult children who fight with their parents on a range of issues, from toileting to sleeping independently and causing trouble at mealtime, may indicate that the family has IFP. The general rule is that family life should be peaceful about 70 percent of the time; any less than that indicates a larger issue.
With IFP, the children have too much power. They cannot see their parents as authority figures, and parents often respond by becoming unruly and throwing tantrums themselves. Many children try tactics to get their own way, and when these tactics work, they use them often.
It’s natural for children to test out family boundaries. When the boundaries break too easily, however, children start to gain power and authority, taking on a leadership role that can lead to a great amount of anxiety. Children do not, of course, yet have the capacity to manage such responsibility in their lives, and badly need their parents to act as leaders and authority figures. Addressing the issue of IFP can help many families right the balance of power and develop a peaceful home environment.