Most parents want to raise a child that will eventually grow up to be an adult with the commendable qualities of perseverance and determination. However, these qualities are not exactly easy to deal with when your child is young. Strong-willed children often leave their parents exhausted and frustrated at the end of each day.
Who are strong-willed children? They are often described as stubborn or difficult to deal with. They are often also called spirited children. The temperaments of strong-willed children are often exhibited by them right from the moment they were born.
These kids want to be in control of their lives and they only do things that are according to their terms. When your kids are young such stubbornness and determination, though an admirable trait to have in an adult, can be very frustrating to deal with because strong-willed children don’t care much about following rules and often challenges them.
How to control strong-willed kids?
- Acknowledge all their feelings.
- Pacify them constantly.
- Teach them the difference between needs and demands.
- Don’t try to justify why you are refusing to something, just refuse.
Characteristics of strong-willed children
The signs that you are raising a strong-willed child are often evident in the characteristics of your child. But each characteristic can be managed or dealt with easily if you know how to. The very common characteristics or behavior of spirited or strong-willed children are:
Intense temper tantrums or angry outbursts
Children are prone to throwing temper tantrums but stronger willed children often exhibit intense anger outbursts. They tend to have very little tolerance for situations that don’t go their way. They have trouble expressing their anger properly and often their anger doesn’t subside quickly. Most parents report that they don’t even understand what triggers such anger outbursts in their strong-willed children. During such outbursts, you will probably find your child rolling on the ground, yelling extremely loudly and stomping feet.
Remember that anger outbursts are used as a means to ensure that other people around know or understand the extent of the distress. The only way to tame your strong-willed child’s overly dramatic behavior in any situation is to acknowledge and validate their feelings.
Make your kid realize that you have understood their feelings and you understand that they dissatisfied with the situation. Once your child understands that they have been heard they will automatically not feel the urge to be overly dramatic to make themselves heard.
Strong-willed children often tend to demand the reasons behind every action. They will question your every command. For example, if you have a strong-willed child then you will probably face questions like “why it is bad to go and play in the rain?”. Don’t shut your strong-willed child with answers like “because I told you so” or “I don’t know”.
Such answers don’t satisfy strong-willed children and that is why parents often have difficulty managing them.
Rather try to make them understand why it’s a moral, health, or safety issue so that your child stops further questions and understands your reasons. You don’t have to provide them with a lengthy explanation but at least make your child understand that your rules have a valid reason behind them and that the rules are not meant to unnecessarily restrict him\her.
Argue a lot
Strong-willed children will continue to argue whenever they disagree with you. They tend to be very determined and persistent about their opinions. They will try to engage and win in power struggles in such situations. Even though they grow up to be great debaters, it might be difficult for you right now. Be sure that they will find the exceptions and loopholes in your rules. They will remember that one time when you let them go play in the Rain or when you had justified lying to someone.
Try to set a warning and be sure to follow through with that warning and consequence. Most parents of strong-willed children tend to avoid giving ultimatums or avoids following through with the warnings because it is often difficult to deal with the ensuing aftermath.
But negative consequences like not being able to go out for the day or removing screen time privileges will increase motivation to follow rules in the future. They will know that you are serious about the warnings about therefore they will listen to that.
Bossy and controlling
Strong-willed children harbor ideas about everything. They have their notions of how things should be and try to boss others around or try to control them to turn those notions into reality.
As a parent, you should try to make your child understand that being manipulative and bossy is not the appropriate way to behave. You should have open conversations and discussions about being respectful to others. Let your child know that there are consequences if they continue to mistreat others.
Won’t do the things which they don’t want to
If your child is strong-willed then it is probably very difficult to make your child do something which they don’t want to do. Trying to make them do something against their wishes by rationalizing or begging is not going to work.
You can try to make your strong-willed child comply with you by making them feel that they have a choice in that matter. Try to give them choices or options. Instead of saying “Do your homework right now”, ask them if they want to do their homework now or after an hour. Such choices make strong-willed children feel empowered and they have a lesser urge to control everything.
Strong-willed kids don’t have any regard for your schedule and will want to do things according to their vision and schedule. They tend to hate waiting for anything or anyone be it waiting in line at the ticket counter or waiting for their turn at the amusement park etc.
Try to encourage problem-solving to ensure that they learn how to cope with such impatience. Make your children see that they have options. Encourage them to find ways to spend the waiting time.
Move at own pace according to mood
Even they want everyone to move according to their demands; strong-willed children like to move at their own pace. They will get ready within seconds when they are to amusement parks, and that same person will take over an hour to get ready before dental checkups.
Not interested in your opinions or rules
Strong-willed children are determined and insistent on living their life according to their rules. They have their own rules and policies and they try to engage in power struggles with parents or any authority figure about rules.
Try to not engage in power struggles whenever possible. For example, if your strong-willed child insists on not going to bed on time, do not get frustrated over it. Let them go to sleep late and be tired the next day. That way they may learn the importance of going to bed on time.
Tips on controlling your strong-willed child
It is never possible to apply one formula for every kid. Customize your strategies and approaches depending on the behavior of your child. However, you should keep the following things in mind
Listen to your child- Parents often have an all-knowing attitude and tend to presume that their child’s opinion or viewpoint is not worthwhile. As strong-willed children are persistent in following their viewpoints, listening to their opinions will help you understand why they are not listening to you. Only then will you be able to make your child understand your viewpoint or the reasons behind your rules.
Be clear and consistent– Tell your child clearly what you expect of them and set consequences to not following your instruction. This is the only way you can avoid those cheeky “But you didn’t tell me so.”
Reinforce good behavior by rewarding it– Shower your child with positive feedback and praise them when they listen to you. This will encourage those behaviors.
Provide them with choices- Allow your child to have a say in things. By offering choices, your kid will not treat them as rules and will be more compliant.
Avoid disciplining using punishments– Try bonding with your kid when they express their emotions of anger or disappointment. If you try to discipline them in the middle of an outburst, they are not going to listen to you. Instead, bond with them in those moments and validate their feelings. Once they have calmed down, you may try to teach them then.
Is it bad to have a strong-willed child?
Contrary to popular belief, psychologists say that having a strong-willed kid is a blessing. These kids grow up to become adults with strong values and determination. Right from a young age, they know how to think independently and therefore they stand apart from the crowd. Such adults wield the power to change the world for the better.
What are the positive sides of a strong-willed child?
Strong-willed kids have the unique characteristics of being passionate about their beliefs and they are determined to achieve their goals. They have a greater chance of succeeding because of their commitment and grit. Your strong-willed child will fight for what they believe in and they won’t give up due to obstacles.
How to discipline a strong-willed child?
Parents of strong-willed children have to work a little harder. They have to think ahead in time and plan on strategies specific to their kid. Keep rules to a minimum but don’t avoid falling through those rules. You should keep calm and don’t let your face give you away. Try not to discipline while your kid in the middle of an outburst. Let him/her calm down and then rationally and patiently rectify them.
Should I home school strong my willed child?
This depends on your kid’s tendencies, interests, strengths, and learning styles. Typically, strong-willed children become frustrated when they are asked to follow the conventional school curriculum. But strong-willed children also display an uncanny desire to go and lead others. In that case, your child might thrive better in a traditional school environment. Let your child choose the environment in which he/she would like to study.
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Mother of Two children. I’m a former teacher with a background in child development and a passion for Good parenting. I understand child development and know how to develop activities to help children learn and grow. Spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, and volunteering in my community.