20 Tips to Parent for Strong-Willed Kids

Kids are adamant, stubborn, and argumentative at times and they want things to have their own way. Strong-willed kids are often misunderstood to be ‘bad kids’ due to their questioning attitude and counter reactionary behavior.

Why do we appreciate a witty adult as an intelligent person and a young strong-willed kid as a misbehaved brat! 

What are the characteristic features of these strong-willed kids?

  • Bossy and controlling
  • Frequent questioning
  • Bad temper
  • Great thinking ability
  • Impatient
  • Sets their own rules and goals
  • Vocal about their disagreement 
  • Smart 
  • Adventurous and can do anything to achieve their goals
  • Very intelligent
  • Creative
  • Independent 

Psychology of Stubborn Kids

In today’s world ‘Spare the rod and spoil the kid’ can’t be practiced. They won’t make your child more rebelling, but they will distance you as well. You need initially to know why your child acts so and why he is wrong before you begin to scold your child for his bad actions or stubbornness.

There is a slim distinction between dedication and obstinacy. Determination has a good connotation yet it is not stubborn. Stubbornness is hereditary and behavior taken by watching others may be created. But I can melt them as holistic individuals by taking the correct steps and canalizing their obstinacy into something positive.

These bunch of kids love to follow their own rules and would rule out their parents when they are imposed with traditional theories of discipline. They are stamped to be bossy, argumentative, and impatient so it gets rather challenging for parents of strong-willed kids to discipline this lot who believes in reasoning and logic, and also crosses the line of respect at times. 

Top Tips to Raise Strong-Willed Kids

  1. Listen to your kid

Your strong-willed kid will not follow your norm of blind obedience so you need to be a good listener. As an adult, you may have great things to say but listening to your kid will make you understand the depth of his or her integrity and understanding.

They have particular reasoning so if you understand that they will always cooperate. 

  1. Don’t use punishment to compensate for Discipline

Kids need to have their own sense of right and wrong. They won’t listen to you if they have a temper so you need to discipline them accordingly. They don’t like to be punished for which they believe to have no faults. Let them cool down first and then speak about it later.

Remind your child that in the house all the members are kind to each other and speak politely. You need to follow the trend and as your kid cools down, he or she will definitely follow it. 

  1. Avoid being opposed

Strong-willed kids will always have a point to say and they will never agree to your thoughts just to make you happy.

These kids are rebels so the only way out is to not force them for anything. You need to avoid opposition but also appreciate your child’s decision so never resort to force as it creates ground for hatred and discomfort. 

  1. Positive reinforcement 

This bunch of kids will follow you only when they are praised and appreciated. They like to have a boost so make sure the slightest of their positive behavior should be noticed and appreciated.

This is an effective tool to make them seek better goals and will keep them away from resentment and anger with negative reinforcements like anger and punishment. 

  1. Try to give them choices

These kids do not want the set of rules which may be a dictating term for them. Waking up on time, going to school, carrying a lunch box, coming back on time, etc., so if you give them some choices then they will appreciate those of it.

You can ask them to choose between a red umbrella or a blue one, or going out for dinner or staying back home to complete the game, having pizza or pasta, and many options as such. This will make them have freedom of choice. 

  1. You need to pick your battle

Strong-willed kids are born with this instinct of questioning, arguing, and seeking an explanation in almost all cases. They will not follow your rules out of respect, as they are high in integrity, so they would rather comply with your explanation and follow you in what you actually do. 

You cannot argue with them in all cases so let them have their own way in easy matters like chewing gum all the time or wearing a thick cardigan on a sunny bright day!

You can set your rules on matters like disrespecting their siblings or running around in a busy mall or even hitting a friend. You need to tactfully handle them and choose your battle that needs to be attended to.

  1. Understand their point of view

As a parent, you will always look for all good things and want kids to be obedient to stay on the track of good. But in the process, you should not ignore your child’s point of view. They will definitely view things from a certain angle so that needs to be appreciated.

If your child wants to go for a picnic desperately, then you need to know the reason and see things through his way. Use empathy if he had an argument with a friend and understand his point of view rather than reprimanding for every small or big matter.

  1. Set the rules and model yourself

There have to be some rules at home that need to be followed to maintain positive discipline. You need to follow those rules and make sure that it’s for everybody and no one is bossing around at home.

You brush your teeth before going to bed and that’s a good discipline for everyone. You speak to everyone at home with respect no matter how small or big the relationship is and that’s a positive discipline that all of you need to follow.

These routines will make your kids realize discipline and logic.

  1. Don’t be the authoritarian

You don’t want to look like an enemy in front of your kid and avoid getting that feeling of disgust in the heart of your young one. Be an authoritative parent who sets rules but also listens and provides options with compassion.

Be a flexible person who is approachable rather than an authoritarian who sets rules without giving an explanation and puts a stamp of correctness on it. 

  1. Interview your child

This works the best with strong-willed kids. You need to keep asking questions about what they feel like doing. If they don’t want to go to bed on time then ask them the reason for that.

They might not want to share food with a friend so you need to ask them, ‘Why?’. This will help them get to know the answer themselves and they will learn with experience.

If they give you good reasons, then motivate them and encourage them with good thoughts. 

11. Teach your child how to fix the mistake he has done

Kids will commit mistakes as they cannot judge what is right and what is wrong and in strong-willed children, they will not easily understand where they have gone wrong. So instead of shouting or screaming at them, talk with them politely and let them what the thing they have done is wrong and tell them a way how to fix it. They might revolt and not listen to you in the first place, but be patient and give them time to understand where they have gone wrong

12. Hear them out instead of arguing

Strong-willed kids are very bossy and can fight head-on to win an argument. Instead of arguing with them and making it a nasty and uncomfortable situation, be quiet and listen to what they have to say. After having done that, instead of arguing, start a conversation with them on the topic they were arguing on. This will result in a mutual understanding and they will also try and understand your point of view.

13. Work on your negotiating skills 

You will have to learn to not say ‘no’ sometimes. Dealing with strong-willed kids is a challenge as they are usually independent. Instead of forcing your opinions on them and telling them to follow your orders without a question, try and be patient and find out ways which will benefit both of you.

For example, if your child wants to play when he has to do his homework, talk and come to an agreement where they can sit down to study for an hour and then again play afterward.

14. Place guidelines and consequences

The basic mantra to control strong-willed children is to set some rules and regulations. Sit together along with them and decide on the rules. Do give priority to what they have to say, as that will make them feel important. But, make sure you change the rules with time according to situations. 

15. Let them know your expectations

Let them know what exactly you are expecting from them instead of giving them too many choices which will give them loopholes to not meet your expectations. For example, let them know clearly what you expect from them while you are driving the car or when guests come over to your place.

16. Teach them how to express their feelings

There is a problem among strong-willed children is that they cannot address their own emotions or struggle to deal with what they are feeling. To make your children understand their feelings and emotions, showcase your first and label them accordingly which will give them a clear idea of how to deal with intense feelings like frustration, irritation, sorrow, etc.

17. Always reply to their questions with explanations

Strong-willed children tend to ask ‘why’ to whatever you try to explain to them. You might think that by asking ‘why’ they are questioning your authority but you need to understand that this is how the brain of strong-willed children works.

Instead of directly saying ‘no’ to their demands, always make sure you give them a proper explanation to it as that will help them understand the situation and react accordingly.

18. Appreciate their efforts and also praise their positive side

Strong-willed or spirited children have their strengths and it is your responsibility and credibility to channelize their uncontrolled energy and strength into something positive. When they do something good, a few words of encouragement for their decent behavior will motivate them to do positive things more often.

19. Fix up a sleep routine for them

While it may sound difficult to comply, but you will have to be strict regarding the sleep routine. You will have to make sure they get adequate sleep and rest at night so that when they wake up in the morning, they are not cranky and irritated. This will also help him be in a good mood.

20. Realize that they are experimental learners

Strong-willed children will learn whatever they do through experience and you will have to be patient about it. They will not listen to you even if you try to show them the path or rectify their mistakes. Just keep a check that they are not hurting themselves in the process; apart from that give them the space to learn from their mistakes.

Problems you have to face while nurturing a strong-willed child

Parentage is a challenge, and it’s not a cakewalk particularly when you have a strong-willed child. It is like a war in your office and your other social obligations. Regimentation cannot always be a solution, rather it may be more efficient to check for alternatives. Here is a list of problems you can face while parenting a strong-willed child:

1. Fussy eaters

Infants and children can eat extremely moody, if stubborn. Deal with their ‘food swings’ by making your food appealing and savory but non-compromising. If they can keep to standards or appreciate their effort you can even ask them to set up the dinner table once in a while and reward them with their favorites candy or dessert.

2. Homework challenges

Your child will lack focus or simply not want to do his homework. Try to break your homework into small sections so that you do not feel the strain and complete your work faster. Or ask your child to assist you in everyday tasks during your spare days or free time and revisit the lessons he/she has learned that day with him/her.

3. Moody Dressers

Dressing up a child can be a difficult task. You’ll want to wear something that isn’t suitable for the occasion. Try to pick out your wardrobe every week, so that you don’t bother to wear the same clothes repeatedly. Keep clothes away which don’t fit season or weather. Keep your baby’s two or three clothing choices handy. Win-win all ends scenario!

4. Bedtime tantrums

Right now, your children are bubbling with life. You’re tired after the hard work of the day, on the other hand, but your child won’t let you reach the bed so fast! Switch on some calming music to calm down your adrenaline that will make your child easier to sleep. Therapeutic is music.

Switch off the television. Let the person decide who he or she wants to wear pajamas or night dresses. Bring your child to bed and listen to their day’s position or whether or not they want anything to tell. And kiss them properly, eventually.


Parents often misunderstand strong-willed kids and try to punish them with all the trouble and explanation that they need to give. Strong-willed kids are different because they are intelligent and independent.

Don’t try to force your opinions on them but let them seek answers and validate your rules to let them do better. This bunch of kids becomes great people in the future so don’t cut their wings off a bit rather reason out possibilities for them to fly better.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is it good to have a strong-willed kid?

These kids will do what is right and stick to it and their independent nature often makes them successful.

Can you always be kind to a stubborn kid?

Most of the time you need to deal with empathy and understanding but continuous and repetitive indiscipline should be monitored and corrected with punishment in extreme cases. Time outs can be used in such cases.

What is a good mantra to deal with kids who have their own way of life?

Your vocabulary plays the most important role in such cases. Instead of saying, ‘you are a spoilt kid’ or ‘Do you homework now’, you can either say ‘You are a good kid, aren’t you?’ or ‘ Why is that you don’t want to do your homework now?’. 

Is defiance a sign of intelligence?

Defiance is a sign which implies high emotional intelligence. You will find other children of your children’s age playing a game with a certain set of rules but your children will make their own rules and not comply with the already set rules. Do not force them to follow other people’s rules. Give them the space that they need.

How to get my stubborn kid to comply?

No shortcuts are given to make sure your child is stubborn. The only ways you can get your child to comply are time, patience, and love. If they do something wrong, instead of scolding them or engaging in an argument, address them calmly and firmly. Instead of not considering their feelings, try to appreciate their thoughts when you deem them to be insignificant. Before being their protector, be their friend first.

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