The strong-willed child is definitely challenging with his persistence, energy, and determination. As a result, it’s easy to look at a strong will as a BAD thing.
In reality though, kids with a strong will become great teens, young adults, and leaders if we steer them right.
How do we parent them in a positive way, to bring out the positive and good in them?
Tips for Positive Parenting of a Strong-Willed Child
1. Give them choices when possible.
Giving orders to them often opens the door for argument and conflict. However, when you offer a choice they are more likely to be cooperative, as they had some say in the matter.
If doing something is non-negotiable, a good way to handle it is: “Do you want to do your chores now, or do you want to wait till after our snack?” They still have to do it, but get a choice as to when.
2. Remember the GOOD things about them.
The description “strong-willed child” usually has a negative connotation, but it’s NOT a negative thing! A strong will is a positive trait that requires parents to guide and channel in the right direction.
Strong-willed children are usually self-motivated and focused. They go after what they want, and don’t let peer pressure sway them. These are traits that make great leaders!
3. Have consistent rules and routines.
A strong-willed child needs parents that are strong-willed, and who will enforce the rules and routines. They need to know that if the rule is NO about something, that’s not going to change by them pushing and begging. Have specific limits and rules, that always have a consistent response.
If you are consistent with the rules and routines with all the kids in the family, the strong-willed child will quickly realize that you aren’t picking on them. For example, rather than telling them to hurry and get ready for bed, calmly remind them “The rule is be in your bed by 8:30. If you hurry, we’ll have time to read a book!“ This puts the ball in THEIR court.
4. Don’t allow yourself to react to their behavior, while forgetting to focus on their heart.
It is easy to get frustrated with the way they push the limits, and try to get their way. Rather than focusing on those behaviors, try to see what is going on their heart that you need to deal with. Molding their heart should be our focus, rather than changing their behavior.
5. Realize that sometimes “winning the battle” with them, means you lose their heart.
If “winning” is going to cost you the relationship, take a break and tell the child that you will talk about it later. Refuse to let them engage you in argument and anger, by walking away and saying “I need to think some more about this. We will discuss it tomorrow.”
Sometimes we choose battles that aren’t important enough, and then we don’t want to back down. Be wise, and re-consider.
If you still feel you need to stand strong, approach it with a kind heart and explain, “As your parent, I love you and want what is best for you. I don’t feel this is something I can allow, even though I know you really want to do it. I know you are disappointed, and I understand that. How about if we choose a special activity in place of that – what would you like to do?”
This shows them that you care about them, and their emotions. It also shows that you respect their feelings. and will help you to win their heart!
6. Pray for wisdom!
None of us can be perfect parents, and with the strong-willed child, we ARE going to make mistakes. However, we CAN be praying parents, and that is the source of our power! Don’t try to do it in your own strength or wisdom, but go to God daily and seek His help. (Prayer – It Makes a Difference!)
7. Tell them “I love you!” often!
Because you will tend to have frequent confrontations with the strong-willed child, it’s important to make a habit of frequently telling them that you love them. Don’t assume that they know that – they need to HEAR it!
Being confident of your love for them helps them to trust you have their best interest at heart when there is a difference of opinion or conflict. When they are being stubborn, it is a good time to remind them that you love them just the way they are, and how glad you are God gave them to you.
Hang in there on the tough days, Mom! God gave you that strong-willed child, and He will give you the strength and wisdom you need.