Tips for Parenting The Strong-Willed Child

Did you ever have that one time when your child insisted on wearing fleece pajamas on a hot summer night out rather than wearing a PJ short set? Or insists that a sandwich cut in a triangle tastes better than any other cut? These simple circumstances show what being strong-willed means.  

The truth is that a child knows their mind. They are never easily swayed. Yet sometimes, they are often called “difficult” or “stubborn.” Still, a strong-willed kid can also be seen as a person of integrity who is not easily swayed from his viewpoint. 

Spirited and courageous are the common words we can identify our strong-willed kids. They simply don’t accept what others say or any offer of help because they want to learn things for themselves. They are “in charge” of themselves, and often they put their desire to be right above everything else. They test our limits over and over again. 

You know you are parenting a strong-willed child when your child challenges you, or when he doesn’t accept your instructions, when you are both prone to power struggles, or when he asks why more than he answers. 

When they have that iron-clad focus when their heart is set on something, their brains tend to have difficulty switching gears. And you know, strong-willed kids aren’t just being difficult. They feel that their integrity is being compromised if they’re forced to submit to another person’s will.  

Our strong-willed children often challenge authority and are fiercely determined. Parenting them indeed poses many challenges. It is nearly impossible to use a one-size-fits-all approach to discipline. It can be futile to lecture and punish them. 

Truth be told, you may often find yourself in a standoff where your child will not comply. A strong-willed child will not respond well to anything being forced on him. When we force and try a strong-willed child to obey our instructions as is, we are essentially asking her to push aside who she is and accept our instructions at face value. 

Though a strong-willed child is not easy to parent, she is a fantastic child to raise. It is also such a rich experience to parent a spirited child who is challenging and dynamic. Don’t we want to raise a child who will stand up for what’s right and be successful?  

Of course, we do want that! So, how can we parent a strong-willed child without breaking their spirit?  

First, identify your child’s most common power struggles. A battle of power between a parent and a child is sure to happen, but as parents, what we should do is we must learn to identify our child’s typical power struggles and what triggers set them in motion.  

For example, if asking your child to do his homework as soon as he gets home leads to an argument every single day, shift your approach by giving him a little more autonomy over his schedule. You may say, “I know you may not feel like doing your homework straight away. Would you like to do it before or after dinner when you had some time to rest and eat?”  

Some power struggles can pop out of nowhere, but you can surely identify a few prevalent with your strong-willed child if you think about it. If you can figure them out, you can take the proper steps to avoid them.  

Second, give them some power and control. Once you’ve identified what common power struggle your strong-willed child faces, you can now think about how you can hand over some control, of course, while maintaining your peace of mind.  

From the example above, you can see how putting your child in charge of little decisions can significantly impact whether or not they give you a pushback. Handing off control to your child may terrify you, but once you see the outcome, you’ll understand why this is so important.  

Third, show some empathy and respect. Remember that our kids house the same emotions we do, just in smaller containers. Show some compassion and respect by starting to physically get on her level, eye-to-eye, and tell her that you understand what she is going through and validate her feelings. 

Avoid talking down to them and avoid doing tasks for them that they are entirely capable of doing so by themselves. Always allow them to answer questions for themselves and respect their wants and desires. When you show your children respect and understanding, you’re sending them a vital message; it’s like you are telling them that they are strong, intelligent, and capable human beings.  

Lastly, focus on problem-solving, not punishment. It is understood that punishment is the go-to solution for most parents. But punishment comes with much unwanted emotional baggage, and you don’t want to unpack that. The best thing you can do is focus on solving the bigger problem.   

For instance, if your son is defiant every day after school, figure out why. Is he hungry? Is he having trouble with a subject or two? Does he have a problem with friends? Or is he just simply weary after sitting still so long? Know the reason behind it and figure out some solutions you can work on together. If he understands that you are with him and not against him, he’ll be much more likely to cooperate and work with you.   

If your life feels like a constant tug-of-war battle with your child, there is no better time to end the game than now. 

When your child pulls you, resist the urge to pull back even harder. Loosen your grip instead, and remember these four tips. It does not have to be exhausting to parent a strong-willed child; you can learn to enjoy that fighting spirit with time, patience, and the right tools!