Help! How Do I Parent My Strong Willed Child?

Strong Willed ChildSometimes you notice it as soon as you leave the hospital with your new bundle of joy.  Some children just seem to be born strong willed.  As infants they’re difficult to comfort.  They insist on holding their spoons or refuse to eat when you’re ready to feed them.  As toddlers, you battle frequent tantrums.  Parenting the strong willed child is not easy task.  It takes courage and a lot of strategic planning on your part, as the parent.  Lucky you, eh?

Some great guidance can be found at The University of Alabama’s Parent Assistance Line.  Here is a summary of some practical and simple advice for parents of a strong willed child that is covered in the article.

What should I know to better understand and help my willful child?

  • Children enter into the world with their own unique temperament. It is an inborn trait that cannot be changed. However, parents can learn to understand it, guide it, and mold it in positive directions!
  • Sometimes a parent’s temperament conflicts with that of their child. Naturally this is going to become a battleground if your parenting style is not suited to this particular child.  You may need to modify your parenting style to meet the needs of your child.  Just because a particular style worked on your other children or worked for your parents as they raised you, doesn’t mean that that specific parenting style will be effective for your child.
  • Misbehavior is more about reaction than attention. Children have built in energy detectors. If we consistently give louder and more intense reactions to misbehavior than we do compliance, children will go for the “fireworks” every time.
  • Although sometimes it may seem like it, your child is not out to “get you” or make your life miserable!
  • Children can be taught self-control and parents can learn how to starve misbehavior by not feeding it with our energy.

So what can I do to manage my strong willed child’s behavior?

It doesn’t have to always be a power struggle.  You have the ability to end the power struggle today!

  • A strong willed child loves being in control.  So give your strong willed child something to control.  If getting dressed in the morning is a power struggle, then let your child pick out his own clothes.  Who cares if they don’t match?  The school isn’t going to send your child home for uncoordinated clothing.  If eating vegetables is a constant struggle, let your child pick out the vegetables for dinner.
  • The key to giving your strong willed child choices and therefore ending many power struggles is to limit what your child is choosing from.  Select two things that you would be agreeable to and let your child pick between the two.  For example, “Cory, should the family eat peas or green beans with dinner tonight?”  Chances are if your child has made the choice for himself, he’s more likely to eat the vegetables, and you’ve won because he’s eating vegetables.  Who cares if they are peas or green beans?  The point is your strong willed child is actually eating the VEGETABLES!  He thinks he’s in charge, but you know that secretly you are!
  • Another parenting tip for parents with a strong willed child is to know what battles are worth fighting.  Some things just aren’t worth the fight.  Say you have a strong willed child who refuses to brush her hair.  Every day you have a power struggle over brushing her hair.  (I’ve known of parents who actually held their daughters down while the other parent brushes it out!  Don’t do this!)  End the power struggle today!  Tell your daughter (if she’s old enough) that brushing her hair is now her responsibility.  You can even make this a big deal—take her shopping and let her pick out a new hair brush.  Then drop the power struggle.  Don’t nag your strong willed child to brush her hair.  Don’t remind her.  Don’t even talk about it at all.  She probably won’t brush her hair for a few days.  Remember, a strong willed child wants to feel in control.  But if you stick firm to ignoring the behavior, consistently, all of the time, then chances are eventually she’ll begin brushing her hair on her own.  Again, she may think she’s won the battle, but you know that you have.

The strong willed child doesn’t have to be in charge (in fact they shouldn’t be), but it hurts no one if they think they have won the battle!  Just remember… let your Strong Willed Child win the battle so you can win the war!

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents of strong willed child design effective discipline strategies to manage their child’s defiant behaviors.  We tailor our programs to meet your individual child’s and family’s needs.  Talk to us Today!