She is fire and ice; my light and my world. She is the spitting image of me; tough, strong, and bull headed. It has not been a smooth ride with this child. She is a strong willed child, who likes to push her boundaries. Parenting a child with a strong will, will never be easy. We butt heads on a daily basis, but I have learned there are ways to get through to her. It takes a special kind of patience, one I had to work on, to healthily parent the strong willed child.
Parenting the Strong Willed Child
My daughter is as stubborn and strong willed as they come. When she does not not get her way it can become a nuclear meltdown. I had to learn how to best parent her. It was a process, and I am still learning. So many things did not work, but I have found different ways that do. What you must remember is that each child is an individual. What works for one may not work for another, so take all “parenting advice” with a grain of salt. Tweak it to your preferences and make something that works for you.
I grew up with parents who implemented spanking. It did not happen often, but when it did I remembered it. For me, spanking seemed to work, so when I had a child that is what I though would work for her too. Boy, was I wrong. Spanking my strong willed child only escalated the situation. It would make her shut down, as opposed to straighten up. I ended up in an endless cycle that wasn’t working for us, so I gave up spanking all together.
Taking Away Toys
I would go into my daughter’s room and literally take ALL of her things out of her room. She would be upset for a while, but it didn’t phase her for long. This strong willed little girl would just entertain herself in other ways. She is great at just sitting in her bed and talking to herself. Taking away her toys does work for a short period of time. She works to earn them back, but will revert right back to bad habits. While this isn’t a perfect method, it does have temporary positive effects. The trick it, the toys have to be put away somewhere the child can’t see them. If she sees the box in my room, she knows she will get them back eventually. The best way I have found is to put it all in trash backs and hide them in the garage.
This seems to be the best method for MY strong willed little princess. She will kick and moan, but when given a chance to calm down quietly, the attitude improves. Once she is calm, I will get down on her level and talk to her. Not yell, talk. While she may be young, there are a lot of things that she does understand. I will have her try to explain WHY she was throwing a fit. Then I explain why she can’t do what she did, and tell her the acceptable alternatives to her actions.
Chore charts have been hit or miss at my house. Some weeks they work great, and some weeks she couldn’t care any less about earning stickers. I keep trying though. This is a way for her to learn that her actions have consequences. When she does a chore or has a good day, she gets a sticker. Enough stickers and she can get a “prize” of her choice. Usually a dollar tree toy or a trip out for ice cream. When she does not complete her chores or has a bad day, she can lose a sticker and she knows that will set her back from her ultimate goal. It isn’t a perfect system, but over time it has been working more and more.
Yelling does not work with a strong willed child. I wouldn’t advocate yelling at ANY child, but none of us are perfect and it happens. Yelling only makes the situation worse. My daughter would yell back and try to be even louder and it would probably become a loud, viscous cycle.
I save this for AFTER both my daughter and I have calmed down. I will come down to her level and talk with her. One thing I have found to be important is to have her tell me WHY she did something. Then I will explain to her why her actions were wrong and what she can do differently next time. This seems to work extremely well for us. She feels like she has a say so and I don’t lose my temper. You may find yourself having the same conversations multiple times, but they will eventually get it.
Give Them Choices
Something that I have found works exceedingly well is to give my daughter choices. Now, children don’t need too many choices but two or three options seems to work best. I will let her pick from two lunch options, or two drink options. This lets her feel independent, but she isn’t overwhelmed with too many options at once. She knows those are the choices, and the only choices, there is no “other” option.
Show Them Love
This may seem like a given, but the strong willed child needs to be shown affection often. All children need affection, but I feel when a child is strong willed and stubborn, they start to feel like they are only ever getting in trouble. They need to know that they are loved even though they might need to be reprimanded more often. Strong willed children should know that you love them always, and your punishments are not to be “mean” but to teach them valuable lessons.
Parenting a strong willed child takes patience and a lot of love. They can be needy, clingy, stubborn, and wild, but they are children who need love and guidance. These children need to learn their limits and experience downfalls. They will love fiercely and act out like crazy. I believe strong willed children are special. They may be difficult to handle at times, but with the right love and guidance, they will grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow.