Let’s face it, parents! Some kids, especially toddlers, can be high-strung, headstrong, and just plain stubborn. But this isn’t always a bad thing! In fact, having a strong-will is actually a fantastic character trait. While it can often make parenting tough, it generally leads to raising wonderful, productive adults who make excellent leaders.
In the meantime, we understand that parenting a strong-willed child can be really tough. At worst, it can lead to fighting, exhaustion, and the deterioration of the parent-child relationship. However, at best, it can lead to mutual respect, care, independence, and raising a genuinely great human being! So, to help you avoid the former and achieve the latter, we are providing our practical approaches and expert tips for parenting your strong-willed child.
As a parent, having a strong-willed child can make establishing respect and authority a real challenge. But parenting them is as much about your behavior as it is about theirs! Headstrong kids are often very sensitive and need you to stay calm to help them regulate their emotions. This means that you have to understand and even expect that there will be challenges that push your patience throughout your parenting journey. Resolve to handle them with gentle love and care, rather than a power-struggle. Being creative and conscious about your parenting strategies can be crucial to fostering a positive and healthy parent-child relationship and raising a productive and kind adult. Do your best to put yourself in your child’s shoes, show empathy for their emotions, and respect them, just as you want them to do for you.
As you may already know, raising a strong-willed child can often feel like a constant power-struggle. Perhaps the best thing you can do to remedy this is avoid fighting altogether. Remember, it doesn’t help you or your child. When you lose, you miss an opportunity to promote respect. They get stronger in their will and feel more empowered to push your limits. If you try to use force to get your way, it will often result in strengthening their will in negative ways. And if you go too far to break it, you end up breaking their will, and often their tenacious spirit. This can be detrimental not only to the parent-child relationship, but also in protecting the positive aspects of your child’s strong-willed personality. As a result, choosing love and care instead of fighting is always the best option.
No matter how old your child is, it is important to set rules and routines and stick to them. Start with one or two rules or daily habits and gradually add new ones as your child ages. Ensure that you start with the most essential rules and create new ones when their age and ability to take on responsibility changes. This can help younger children focus on the most important things and older children accept more responsibilities. As you set these boundaries, keep in mind that if you expect your child to respect the rules, you have to set an example by respecting them too. That means not only abiding by the rules yourself, along with everyone in your household, but also not wavering from them. Stay strong and stick to the rules to avoid your child developing a lack of respect for them, and your authority too.
Keep in mind, setting rules, routines, and boundaries doesn’t mean setting a lot of them to impose control. This will almost definitely produce the opposite of the desired effect. In this case, you are likely to raise a rebel instead! Leaving room for independence and autonomy is essential for raising a strong-willed child. In fact, it is better to offer more independence in a controlled way to produce an outcome that is productive and helpful for both you and your child. For instance, instead of deciding everything for them and attempting to persuade them or fight for your way, offer them the opportunity to choose some things for themselves. Maybe you let them choose their own snack, pick out their outfit, or decide when they want to take a break and when they will dedicate time to do their schoolwork or chores. Let them be in charge of anything that their stage of development will appropriately allow. Instead of telling them what to do, ask them. If they need help, don’t scold or shame them, remind them and support them.
When you have a strong-willed child, punishments can be difficult and often counter-productive. Things like taking away items or privileges, raising your voice, causing shame, or spanking, all can cause harm and no good comes from these practices. They can perhaps stop a child from behaving a certain way temporarily, but they can also be hurtful, break down the parent-child relationship, and simply not foster positive behaviors. Instead, take a closer look at why your child is acting out to find the root cause and help put a stop to it in a positive way. Listen to what they have to say. Are they feeling frustrated about something their sibling did? Are they stressed about school? Try to find out what is really going on and talk to them about it. Instead of unproductive punishments, look for ways to encourage your child to think inward about their actions.
As you move to avoid unproductive punishments, you need to find ways to replace the practice with something that actually helps your child learn, grow, and channel their energy and strong-willed personality in helpful ways. One way is to provide them with opportunities to reflect on their behavior and offer them tools to channel their negative emotions or challenge their firm opinions. Do your best to encourage your child to consider their actions. Channel their energy towards something good by providing an outlet for their strong-willed nature. Pick something that works for them depending on their age. Maybe you can provide them with more responsibilities, hobbies, or activities that help them move their bodies or work their brains. Set them in charge of things around the house or extracurriculars such as clubs or volunteering opportunities. It all comes down to embracing their leadership skills and encouraging them to use their will in a positive and effective way.
One of the best ways to turn potentially negative situations into positive ones on a daily basis is to make connecting with your child a priority. Talk to them, ask them questions, and truly listen to what they have to say. Be supportive instead of oppositionary. This means working to be friends rather than foe. Much like you might in any familial relationship, avoid becoming opposing forces and start working together as two independent people that live together. You don’t have to give up your authority and you shouldn’t. But you can, and should let them have their own opinions and learn for themselves through their life experiences. As a parent, it can be a beautiful, life-long journey to build a mutually respectful relationship with your sensitive, headstrong, stubborn little one.
At Coastal Kids, we believe that parenting and healthcare approaches should be unique to each child’s specific needs and personality. Our mission is to provide the best possible care for your child and to assist you in helping your little one grow up to be as happy and healthy as possible. We hope these tips on how to parent a strong-willed child prove useful in fostering a positive and healthy relationship with your kid. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician. To make an appointment, visit us at www.coastalkids.com.