5 Tips on Raising a Strong-Willed Child

3 years ago

I'm totally smitten by my daughter's gumption, independence, carefree spirit, and determination. I've witnessed her solve problems all on her own. I've shared the thrill of her figuring out how to put on her sandals while being able to successfully secure the strap all on her own. I've seen the love and care she gives to all of her friends at school. I've observed how confidently she expresses herself to her teachers, family, friends, and us. I know all of these wonderful traits will take my little girl far in life and I feel so honored to be able to tag along for the ride.

Having said all of this, don't let that cute little face fool you. I will be the first to admit that my little girl is a strong-willed child. From early on in her development, we noticed that she would have temper tantrums over the simplest of things if she wasn't able to do them just so or to her liking. Over the years, bedtime has been a challenge and so has dinner time with getting her to eat certain things or getting her to eat anything at all being served on a particular night. Sometimes, even a very simple trip to the grocery store can turn into a battle of wills where picking out snacks or food is concerned.

Regardless, it's very important to Michael and me that Maddy understands that there are certain rules she has to follow, and that she maintain a certain level of self-control in our home and when we're out in public. I've learned that with Maddy, as with most strong-willed kids, flareups typically happen when the child feels powerless or without control, which is something very important to a toddler as it's something they crave early on as a form of independence.

So the question then becomes how can you help your child feel like they are in control and have a voice even though you as the parent are really the one in control of your child and the rules? Here are some tips I've learned from parenting my own strong willed child.

Credit: brenneman.

{ONE} Keep Your Cool and Your Calm Voice.
At times, this is so much easier said than done, but nothing will set my child off worse in the middle of a struggle or tantrum than me losing my cool and losing my even-keel voice. Really, it’s like adding gasoline to a fire: Boom. When Chickie can sense that I’m being affected by her attitude, she knows that her tactics are working and that she just might get her way.

If you have to, walk away or take a deep breath but don’t let ‘em see you sweat.

{TWO} Offer Positive Choices with Consistent Rules.
This one is pretty simple and usually works like a charm for me. Let’s say for instance you want little Johnny to pick up his toys but he’s refusing. Give him a choice that still ends with you getting the result you want. Example: “You can pick up the blue trucks or the blocks first. Which one do you want to do?” Either choice makes them have to clean up, but you are masking it all in giving them a choice. {Read by toddler: I have control.} This is also the perfect time to reiterate your rules and expectations while they are picking up their toys: “We always clean up our toys after we’re done with them, right?” Last but not least, always offer praise for following the rules: “Good job, buddy!” or “You did it!” In a toddler’s world, praise goes a very long way.

{THREE} Structure and Routine Are Always Your Friend.
We learned early on that Chickie functions much better when her world is consistent. When she is able to know what is happening in advance, she’s easily able to predict what’s happening and what’s going to happen next. Most mornings after she’s done getting ready, I let her watch a movie so that I’m able to finish getting ready for work, but I always make sure to say, “You can watch The Lorax for 15 minutes and then we are leaving for school.” Doing this, she gets what she wants {TV time} but also knows that at some point, she will have to stop. This way when I say, “It’s time to go!” she’s prepared and I’m able to skirt a meltdown.

{FOUR} Learn to Pick Your Battles.
This one is pretty self-explanatory but oh-so-important, especially with strong-willed children. Safety is always first and foremost, and I make no exceptions to those rules. Other than that, I try very hard to let stuff just roll. In order to get through the day with your child, sometimes you just have to let certain things go and realize it’s not worth the battle or fight. Learning what your own boundaries are as a parent and applying them into your daily routine will help with this and will also be a much needed life saver.

{FIVE} Make Sure Basic Needs are Met.
When Maddy is on the verge of losing her shit, we've learned to ask ourselves three basic questions: Is she tired? Is she hungry? Is she getting enough attention? Nine times out of ten, a meltdown could have been avoided if we had made sure these simple things were done, especially the last one. For the strong -willed child, their motto is, “Bad attention is good attention!” When moments of unexpected outbursts happen, whether in a store, on vacation, or simply out and about running errands, I usually realize that Chickie is either off her schedule, hasn’t had a nap yet, or didn’t eat lunch/dinner well. Taking care of the basics will go a long way in curbing the ‘tude.

I hope these tips are useful for you and your household, and I’m curious to hear from other parents raising strong-willed children. What do you do to tame the beast within?

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