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Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

Typically, when a child is called “strong-willed,” it’s not a compliment. Kids who bear this label might be viewed as difficult or demanding. Yes, that can be true at times but “strong-willed” means so much more if we broaden our perspective. Therein lies the primary challenge. No parent should aim to change or “break” such a child. Rather, the essential goal is to help them channel their gifts healthily and productively.

A strong-willed child can seem impatient or bossy to some. But this behavior can come from a place of integrity, a desire to excel. How, then, do parents foster their child’s spirit while also guiding them to develop positive social skills?

Who Is The Strong-Willed Child?

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Firstly, let’s not downplay the frustration that parents of strong-willed children can feel. You’re dealing with a child who can be stubborn, short-tempered, and who is determined to have the last word. This is not easy and you cannot let your kid have free reign. It can feel like a tug-of-war, a contest of wills.

Still, every problem is also an opportunity to nurture a strong and burgeoning spirit. Think about it, you’ve been gifted with a child who has:

  • Initiative and motivation
  • The heart of a leader
  • A desire to know “why” and to question norms
  • The need to find better ways to do things
  • A desire to improve and grow
  • Conviction, energy, curiosity, and commitment

How To Parent A Strong-Willed Child

Validate Their Opinions

What a gift for any of us to receive! Even when your child’s ideas run opposite from yours, you can respect them. Let them know they’ve been heard. Encourage them to think for themselves even as they conform to house rules. They’re free to disagree with you, but, in turn, you expect them to respect your opinions. Through it all, your child will be tuning into your energy, so stay calm.

Create Household Routines

When a strong-willed child is born into a disciplined home, they are greeted — from day one — with a rhythm. You and everyone else are leading by example. This sets an early tone that it’s okay to be independent but they must still remember that they are part of a team that works together.

These types of routines are an opportunity for you to establish credibility — especially with a child who is sensitive to inconsistency. Own up to your own mistakes. Being a role model of maturity and humility is an excellent way to build mutual trust.

Offer Them Choices

Making the effort to create trade-offs can reap rewards for everyone involved. Let’s say your child typically balks at their standard bedtime. Well, if that child wants something like a second serving of dessert, it’s a chance to put some power in their hands. Tell them they can choose between having more dessert or staying up a little later that night. They get a chance to decide something for themselves and you’ve avoided an argument.

P.S. If the extra dessert makes them feel queasy or a little less sleep causes them to be groggy the next morning, it’s also useful. You are giving them room to learn tough lessons safely.

You May Need Some Help

Despite all the upbeat messaging above, you will likely have some moments when things feel impossible. A strong-willed child will challenge you in ways you never imagined. No one should be expected to have all the answers. With that in mind, I invite you to reach out and talk to learn more about child therapy. Connecting with an experienced therapist is a proven path for discovering new ways to make the most of the situations and opportunities in your life.

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