Depending on your child’s personality, they may struggle to follow your rules and will not hesitate to defend themselves. You never have to worry about a strong-willed child navigating the big wide world on their own. However, these strong characteristics can make parenting more difficult at times.
We don’t want to dim this developing sense of self because these are personality traits we admire in adults, but kids also need to know that there is a time and place, and as parents, we are their protectors.
What Should You Do If You Have a Strong-Willed Child?
This handy list of dos and don’ts will help you navigate the tricky terrain of parenting strong-willed children.
1) Concentrate on the Positive
I am a firm believer in positive parenting and approaching situations with tools and actions to assist my child in being their best selves. Nobody likes being punished or yelled at for bad behavior.
Instead, try to notice and reward any good behavior they exhibit! A simple act of praise, a sticker for a chart, or even a treat can all help the child feel appreciated.
Try to use some positive parenting techniques even when disciplining. Find something they did well, compliment them on it, and then connect the negative behavior to how they could change their actions or language the next time.
Tip: If this is something you struggle with (believe me, we’ve all been there), We are all human! I recommend checking out this Calm Parenting bundle I put together. These tips and techniques help me to stay strong, assess situations calmly, and approach my children with kindness and empathy.
2) Instruct on Effective Communication
If your child is throwing a tantrum, chances are they are frustrated and don’t know how to express their feelings.
Children with strong wills will always stand up for what they believe to be right. If you promised a bike ride but no longer have time for it, they will feel taken advantage of. After all, they are committed to ethics!
Instead of using controlling language, learn to collaborate. Try to walk them through their emotions and teach them to recognize them. Learning to communicate strong emotions will help everyone better understand the situation.
3) Teach Strong-Willed Children Self-Regulation Skills
Strong-willed children experience strong emotions, which can be overwhelming for both you and the child. They don’t know how to handle these situations at times, and there will almost certainly be outbursts.
Children do not understand how their actions and words affect others or even their future selves.
Teaching children how to control their emotions and impulses will lead to emotional and social maturity as they grow older. While they may have tantrums now, they should learn to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way by the time they reach adulthood.
4) Serve as a Positive Role Model.
When it comes to regulation skills, you should always strive to demonstrate appropriate behavior. Because children will imitate what they see and hear, you should practice what you preach.
You close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to calm down instead of raising your voice; they mimic this behavior. Taking a deep breath can help in any situation. When emotions are running high, take a break and come back to the issue when you and your child are both calmer.
5) Have Fun With Strong-Willed Children
As determined as they are, this results in very passionate children. They enjoy getting their hands on new projects and may become obsessed with a new activity for a week. This enthusiasm is contagious, so you should try to match it!
This trait will result in very committed and fulfilled adults who love what they do in the future. While they may have a lot of energy as a child, embrace it and use this time to strengthen your bond.
6) Allow Them to Decide
Children with strong personalities like to feel like they have a say in their lives. And they have every right to (to some extent)! Having control over your life from a young age aids in the development of problem-solving skills and independence.
Allow your child to participate in decision-making. Instead of issuing direct commands to strong-willed children, ask them what they need to do to complete a task. Then you can devise a strategy together.
It also helps to give them extra time to do things on their own. While some things are easier for us to do, such as fastening a seatbelt, your child will feel more accomplished if they do it on their own.
What You Should Not Do If You Have A Strong-Willed Child
1) Do Not Attempt To Change Them
The sooner you accept your child for who they are, the better off everyone will be. The most important thing you can do as a parent of a strong-willed child is to change your perspective. This temperament is part of who they are and cannot be changed.
Adults admire characteristics such as confidence, determination, independence, and passion. While many parents desire a child who is easygoing and easy to control, this is not always the case.
These assertive traits are simply the child coming into their own. They don’t require any repairs. Instead, consider how they are positioning themselves for future success and how you can assist them.
2) Reverse Reinforcement
The benefits of focusing on the positive have already been mentioned, but it is also important to avoid unfair discipline practices. Trying to impose timeouts or take away toys does not always work. Instead, a stubborn child may refuse to cooperate, causing everyone to become frustrated. The tension in the room is already rising!
In reality, what a child needs during these stressful times is time to decompress and work through their emotions. This is difficult to accomplish without the assistance of a parent.
If you believe your child requires a break, go with them. Even a short walk in silence can work wonders.
3) Ultimatums Do Not and Will Not Work
If a child realizes that you really want them to do something, such as pack for a trip or put on their jacket to leave the house, you can bet they will dig their heels in.
When there is an urgency to do something that children do not want to do, they will resist more. They suddenly have power.
Instead, establishing ground rules ahead of time informs children of what to expect. Because they are always looking to understand and explain why completing a task is critical. Packing ahead of time, for example, ensures that you don’t forget anything important for the trip.
Actively discuss expectations, not just when they must be met!
4) Do Not Label Brave Children
While it’s tempting to label your child as bossy, stubborn, rude, and so on, refrain from doing so. Just as no one likes being told to calm down when they’re upset, this will only add fuel to the fire.
These phrases also instruct the child to think of themselves in this manner, and we never want to undermine their self-esteem. Instead, aim to compliment them on their good qualities.
If your child exhibits “demanding” behavior, consider it good leadership skills that will lead to independence. Praise them whenever they communicate clearly and kindly to others, and offer suggestions (lightly) on how to improve any negative communication you notice.
5) Don’t Explain Anything
As questionnaires by nature, your child is much more likely to resist doing something if they don’t understand why.
When you’re frustrated or in a hurry, you might say things like, “I’m the parent,” or “Because I said so.” These explanations are only sometimes sufficient, and they don’t really explain to the child why it’s important to listen or do what they’re told.
Explain why you want something done and what effect it will have. Alternatively, you can provide them with options and compromises so that they feel as if they are making a decision as well.
The Bottom Line
Overall, changing our way of thinking and approach to parenting strong-willed children is more important than trying to change who they are. Children do not exist for us to control. Instead, we must allow them to be themselves. These abilities your child already possesses will be extremely useful as they mature into adults in society!