How to Parent a Strong Willed Child

Parenting a strong willed child can be challenging. Strong willed children are often persistent, stubborn, and have a determination to do things their own way. While these traits can lead to success later in life, they can cause power struggles and conflict during childhood. As a parent, it’s important to have strategies to channel your child’s strong will in a positive direction. Here are tips for parenting a strong willed child:

Understand Your Child’s Temperament

The first step is recognizing and accepting that you have a strong willed child. Strong will is not “bad” or a flaw – it’s simply an inborn trait and part of your child’s temperament. Strong willed kids are spirited, passionate, and persistent. Rather than trying to change this temperament, work with it.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Strong willed kids demand a lot of energy, so decide what issues are worth fighting over. Let the little things go to save your sanity. Save your enforcement and consequences for safety issues and serious misbehavior.

Set Clear Boundaries and Rules

Strong willed kids need very clear rules and expectations. Set boundaries and enforce them consistently. Explain rules in simple terms at your child’s level. Follow through with calm consequences for broken rules.

Give Choices, Not Ultimatums

Strong willed kids resist demands. Instead of ultimatums, give choices within your rules. “Do you want to get dressed before or after breakfast?” This maintains control while allowing input.

Listen to Your Child

Strong willed kids want to feel heard. Really listen when your child speaks. Reflect their feelings back. “I hear you’re upset that you can’t have ice cream for breakfast.” This validates their feelings without giving in.

Pick Battles Over Behavior, Not Preference

Don’t sweat the small stuff. If your child wants to wear mismatched clothes or crazy socks, let it go. Save battles for behaviors like hitting or disrespect. Allow safe ways for your child to express independence.

Use Positive Reinforcement

When you catch your strong willed child being cooperative, praise them! “I really like how you got dressed so quickly when I asked.” Reward good behavior with attention and privileges. This positive reinforcement encourages more desired behaviors.

Avoid Power Struggles

Strong willed kids thrive on conflict and pushing limits. Once a battle of wills begins, they dig in. Stay calm and avoid ultimatums. Offer choices, listen, and provide empathy. Walk away if needed until things cool down.

Teach Compromise and Negotiation

Strong willed kids need to learn compromise and negotiation skills. Model these skills yourself by listening and finding middle ground. “I want you to finish homework before playing. You want to play first. How about doing 15 minutes of work first?”

Let Natural Consequences Do the Work

Allow your strong willed child to learn from natural consequences when possible. “I can see you really want to wear your bathing suit today even though it’s cold. Okay, but don’t expect me to let you change later when you’re cold.” They’ll learn from the results.

Use Humor and Playfulness

Strong willed kids take themselves very seriously. Defuse tension with playfulness and humor when appropriate. Laugh together and use silly voices. Tickle or blow raspberries. Humor makes conflict less intense.

Remain Calm in Conflicts

Stay calm when your strong willed child acts out. Speak gently and enforce rules calmly. Model self-control. Say what you expect clearly. Getting upset escalates conflict with strong willed kids. Staying calm lowers intensity.

Give Them Power Where You Can

Give strong willed children age-appropriate choices and control where possible. Let them pick out clothes or make simple decisions. Giving power reduces battles over little things, saving you energy for big issues.

Pay Attention to Positives, Not Just Negatives

It’s easy to notice strong willed kids only when they’re being defiant or difficult. Make an effort to notice cooperative, kind behavior too. “You put your shoes on by yourself, awesome!” Positive attention motivates.

Avoid Harsh Punishment

Punishments or consequences should be calm and fit the behavior. Harsh, emotional reactions fuel the fire. Enforce rules patiently and consistently. Make it clear you still love your child, even when correcting behavior.

Take Care of Yourself

Parenting a spirited child is draining. Recharge your own batteries with breaks, self-care, and support. Lean on your partner, family, friends, or support groups. Staying replenished helps you handle challenges.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

If you’re unable to make progress with your strong willed child, seek help. Counseling provides parenting advice tailored to your family. If certain behaviors persist, evaluate whether your child needs therapy or evaluation for conditions like ADHD, anxiety, ODD or others requiring treatment.

Parenting a strong willed child has rewards and challenges. With patience, flexibility, empathy and the right strategies, you can foster their determination and persistence into valuable leadership skills. Celebrate their spiritedness, stay calm, set wise limits, and show them lots of love.

Setting Limits with Strong Willed Kids

Strong willed children will push the limits just to see where they are. This leads to frequent power struggles that exhaust parents. Setting clear, firm, yet loving limits is essential to reduce conflict while still allowing independence. Here are tips:

Choose Rules Wisely

Don’t make excessive or arbitrary rules. Focus on rules for safety, health, and respect. Listen to input from your strong willed child, but you make the final decisions.

Explain Rules Simply

Speak in simple terms at your child’s level. Say exactly what you expect. “Food stays on the table, not on the floor.” Don’t expect them to read between the lines.

Enforce Rules Calmly

Stay composed when enforcing rules. Calmly stop unwanted behavior and redirect to the desired behavior. Use simple consequences like timeout or loss of privilege. Avoid harsh discipline.

Be Consistent

Strong willed kids insist on consistency. Enforce rules calmly every time they are broken. Children feel secure with predictable routines and responses.

Avoid Empty Threats

Never make idle threats or warnings you won’t follow through on. Strong willed kids won’t take you seriously next time. Only give warnings or consequences you can and will enforce.

Allow Reasonable Flexibility

Stay firm on important rules, but allow some flexibility in smaller matters. Is it really a battle worth picking over wearing mismatched socks or silly PJs? Weigh what’s worth enforcing.

Involve Your Child Appropriately

Explain to your strong willed child why rules exist. “We don’t pinch people because it hurts.” Invite their input on non-essential rules when appropriate. “Do you want to pick your clothes or brush teeth first?”

Compromise When Possible

Find compromises on issues like bedtime, chores, etc. “I want you in bed by 8, you want 9. How about 8:30?” This teaches negotiation skills.

Reinforce Cooperation

Notice and praise when your strong willed child follows rules and behaves positively. “Thank you for using indoor voices!” Positive reinforcement encourages cooperation.

Explain Changes in Advance

Warn of any changes to rules or routines in advance. Strong willed kids need time to process and accept changes to avoid resistance.

Avoid Public Power Struggles

Don’t discipline in front of others if possible. Strong willed kids become more confrontational when embarrassed in public. Calmly follow through, then discuss details in private.

With preparation, patience and consistency, you can set fair limits that allow your strong willed child independence while maintaining necessary order. Choose rules wisely, enforce them calmly, and allow reasonable flexibility.

Positive Discipline Methods for Strong Willed Kids

Discipline means “to teach.” Effective discipline methods for strong willed kids involve teaching self-control versus simply punishing. Positive discipline focuses on reinforcing good behaviors instead of just punishing bad ones. Here are positive techniques:

Catch Them Being Good

Watch for any positive behavior and praise it. “I noticed you shared your toy cars with your brother!” This positive reinforcement will motivate your child to repeat these behaviors.

Offer Rewards

Use rewards like stickers, points, or privileges to motivate good behavior, not bribes. “If you follow directions at school all week, you can have a friend over on Friday.” Gradually phase out rewards over time.

Give Attention for Positive Behaviors

Give your spirited child warm attention and descriptive praise when they cooperate, share, use manners, etc. “You waited so patiently for your turn!” Attention motivates.

Use Natural Consequences

Let logical, natural outcomes teach lessons when possible. “If you don’t put your bike away, it will get left out in the rain.” This allows learning without direct punishment.

Take Away Privileges

Use loss of privileges as a calm consequence for disobedience. “Since you won’t turn off the TV when I ask, no more TV for tonight.” Follow through consistently.

Use Time Outs

Brief time outs are effective for defiant behavior. Have them sit alone in a calm area 1 minute per year of age. Warn them, then follow through if they don’t comply.

Provide Guided Choices

Give strong willed kids limited choices to direct behavior. “Do you want to do bath or teeth first? You choose.” This gives control while maintaining order.

Establish Routine

Post schedules and regular routines. Strong willed kids succeed when they know what to expect. Consistency and warning of changes reduces resistance.

Set Up Reward Systems

Use point or sticker charts to motivate good behavior. Allow the child to help make their own system. Give small rewards frequently for cooperation, not just end goals.

Parenting a strong willed child requires much patience and creativity. Positive discipline focuses on teaching good behavior, not just punishing bad. Catch them doing well, redirect, give attention, offer choices, set routines and use natural consequences.

Avoiding Power Struggles with Strong Willed Children

Strong willed kids seem to thrive on conflict and pushing limits. Direct demands and ultimatums provoke fierce resistance. To avoid or defuse power struggles, here are some tips:

Choose Your Battles

Not every disagreement needs to become a war. Evaluate if the issue is really worth a confrontation. Overlook small matters like clothing or hairstyles.

State Requests as Choices

“Time to put on your jacket!” becomes “Red jacket or blue jacket?” Giving choices within rules gives a sense of control.

Listen Without Judgement

Allow your child to voice their gripes and desires before responding. Say “I understand you want to keep playing, but it’s time for bed.” Listening shows respect.

Give the Child a Voice

Ask their opinion sincerely before decisions when possible. “Should we walk to the park or ride bikes?” Even if you have final say, involving them reduces resistance and resentment.

Offer Limited Rewards

“If you put away your toys nicely, you’ll have time to watch one TV show before bed.” Incentives encourage cooperation.

Walk Away

If a confrontation is escalating, say “I’m going to step away and we can talk about this later when we’ve both calmed down.” Removing the audience de-escalates.

Allow Natural Consequences

“If you don’t turn off the TV to do homework now, you won’t have time to finish it before bed.” Let your child learn from outcomes when possible.

Validate Their Feelings

“I know you’re mad you can’t have candy before dinner. I get wanting a treat.” Acknowledging their feelings calms them down.

Use Humor

“Let’s have a silly face contest.” Making light of tense moments diffuses volatility. Laughter is contagious.

Model Negotiation

“I want you to finish homework first, but you want to play first. What if you do 15 minutes of work, then 15 minutes of play?” Demonstrate compromise.

Choose battles wisely. When enforcing rules with strong willed kids, give choices, listen, empathize and incentivize whenever you can. Stay calm, speak gently and allow natural consequences. Model and teach negotiation skills.

Encouraging Cooperation with Strong Willed Children

Strong willed kids are driven to do things their own way. They resist complying just for the sake of following orders. Still, children need to learn to cooperate at times. Here are tips for gaining cooperation from a determined child:

Connect Before Directing

Spend quality time focusing just on your child. When kids feel a strong connection, they are more open to cooperate. A solid relationship provides a foundation.

Give Advance Warning

Tell your child about an upcoming transition in advance. “After this show is over, it will be time to take a bath.” Advance notice helps ease resistance.

Explain Reasons for Requests

Say not just what to do, but why. “Please hold my hand crossing the street so I can keep you safe.” Logic is more convincing than demands to strong willed kids.

Offer Limited Choices

“Please put away your toys. Will you start with the blocks or the cars?” Even small choices provide a sense of control that invite cooperation.

Make It Fun

Turn chores into games. Have “speed” contests for who can get dressed quickest. Challenge them to put away 5 toys before you count to 10. Imagination reduces dread of unexciting tasks.

Use If/Then Statements

“If you get your shoes on, then we’ll have time to read a story before we go.” Make cooperation a prerequisite for things your child wants.

Follow Through Consistently

Don’t make empty threats or warnings you won’t enforce. Children tune parents out if requests don’t have follow through. Do what you say you will.

Avoid Struggling in Public

Wait until you are home in private before having a disciplinary discussion if your child was uncooperative in public. Avoid shaming them in front of others.

Praise Cooperation

“Thank you for putting your plate in the sink when I asked!” Notice and call out cooperation to positively reinforce it.

Set a Good Example

Model maturity and self-control in your own behaviors. Say please, thank you, and speak respectfully to others. Kids copy their parents’ example.

It takes creativity and patience to gain willing cooperation from a strong willed child. Make requests, not demands. Explain reasons, offer choices, use humor and praise their cooperation when you get it. Consistency and a nurturing relationship provide the foundation.

Dealing with Defiance and Temper Tantrums

Strong willed kids are prone to defiant behavior and intense temper tantrums. Screaming, throwing toys, saying “no” and outright disobedience try every parent’s patience. Stay calm and consistent in the face of acting out.

Remain Calm

Speak gently and act composed even if your child falls apart. Staying calm yourself keeps tensions from escalating further.

Make Direct Requests

Give specific directions like “please put your shoes on” versus vague ones like “get ready.” Defiant kids resist vague requests to test limits.

Warn of Consequences

After a warning for misbehavior, state consequences clearly like timeout or toy removal. Then calmly follow through.

Follow Through Consistently

Don’t make empty threats. If you warn of consequences, you must enforce them every time or warnings lose effect. Consistency is key with strong willed kids.

Stay Neutral

Avoid angry lecturing or harsh tones. Stick to enforcing rules and consequences without getting personally offended by disobedience. Remain the calm authority.

Allow Natural Outcomes

“If you don’t pick up your toys now, I will put them away and you won’t be able to play with them tomorrow.” Let your child learn from their choices when possible.

Praise Positive Opposites

Notice times after misbehavior when your child listens well, shares happily or speaks politely. “I like how you used your words instead of yelling.”

Anticipate Trouble Times

Prevent misbehavior by preparing for challenging times when kids are hungry, tired or bored. Bring healthy snacks, move naps earlier or bring toys to keep them engaged.

Stay Neutral During Tantrums

Don’t give in to demands just to stop tantrums. Ignore the outburst as much as safely possible. Offer comfort after the tantrum ends.

Kids need parents to remain the calm, confident authority. Stay composed, set fair limits, follow through consistently and praise positive behaviors to manage defiance while maintaining a loving bond.

Encouraging Independence in Strong Willed Children

Strong willed kids crave independence and balk at too many restrictions. Allow opportunities for self-direction to avoid power struggles. Here are tips:

Give Meaningful Choices

Within safe limits, allow choices about food, clothes, schedules, toys, etc. Choices help them feel autonomous, not controlled.

Assign Small Responsibilities

Around age 2, give them simple chores like putting toys away or wiping tables. Increase duties as they grow. Chores build confidence.

Allow Unstructured Play

Give open-ended play time to explore their own ideas, not just adult-directed activities. Unstructured play encourages creativity and problem solving.

Permit Safe Risks

Let your child try new physical challenges like climbing low branches or riding a bike with supervision. Small risks help develop coordination and resilience.

Allow Minor Mistakes

Don’t rush to correct every minor error. Let them pour their own juice and spill a little. Mistakes help them build skills when stakes are low.

Teach Self-Help Skills

Show how to dress themselves, make simple foods, care for belongings. Mastering self-care promotes independence and pride.

Respect Their Property

Allow your child to have ownership of toys, clothes and their room space. Don’t give or toss belongings without permission. Respect sends the message their property is theirs to control.

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