Who knows what it’s like to raise a strong-willed child? Well, I am #blessed enough to have three of them! Strong-willed children are spirited and fiercely independent. They want to do and learn things for themselves, which sometimes means pushing the limits…over and over and over again! My kids are extremely headstrong, and they can be a handful sometimes. They can be challenging, persistent, and stubborn. Over the years, I have put my parenting skills to the test so as not to break their unique spirit.
My husband and I have found that negative reinforcement doesn’t work in our family. Instead, we focus more on positive reinforcement, with rewards for good behavior and manners. When the kids follow the rules, finish their dinner without issue, or put their laundry in the hamper, they are rewarded. As I said in a previous article, we use beans in a jar that can be cashed in for special outings or small toys.
Pick your Battles
Strong-willed children have strong opinions about everything, including what to wear, what to eat, or what color fork to use. As a parent, you quickly learn that arguing about everything isn’t possible. Therefore, I’ve learned to pick my battles. Setting limits is important, but I’ll also allow my youngest child to wear hot pink boots, a swimsuit, and a winter hat and coat in the middle of July if she wants to. I’d rather be more rigid when it comes to not hitting each other or calling each other names.
Option 1 or Option 2?
Giving strong-willed children options makes them feel like they are in control. Allowing my children to feel like they have some authority has been extremely helpful in keeping the power struggles at bay. Of course, I only give two or three acceptable choices! For something non-negotiable like going to bed, I’ll say something like, “Do you want to go to bed now or in 10 minutes?” After a choice has been made, we shake hands to “seal the deal”.
Wave the white flag
It is not unusual to get caught in a battle of wills with headstrong children. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is just wave the white flag and take a break. This doesn’t mean giving in to them, but it gives you and your child a minute or two to calm down. These power struggles are inevitable, and sometimes you just need to take a breath before engaging! I’ve had to learn to manage my own feelings of frustration. The more intensely I react to an argument, the faster the situation escalates and the more defeated we all become. Practice through three children has really helped me approach each situation with a level head.
My oldest is soon to be 10, and as the years have gone by, her stubbornness has become more manageable. I guess there’s hope for the other two! Accepting their personalities and understanding that they aren’t “bad kids” is of the utmost importance. All three of my children are usually kind, thoughtful, and caring. When their behavior is extra difficult and I find that they are acting out more, it usually means that some extra one-on-one time is needed with some positive reinforcement.
Never forget that our spirited, confident, and self-assured kids are going to rule the world one day! They have BIG plans that match their strong attitudes! We have to help them manage their BIG feelings and always show that we love their fiercely independent, sometimes stubborn, and always caring attitudes.