“Not again”, you think to yourself. All eyes are on you as your strong willed-child challenges you again in the grocery store. You can feel the judgment. You are exhausted. You have put so much work in trying to prevent this from happening, but nothing seems to be working.
You can't help but take people stares personally, as your mind runs through all the possible things they could be saying about you.
She can't control her kid?
She lets her kid act like that? I would never let my child act like that.
She is getting walked all over.
You start to feel yourself questioning whether you are a good parent.
You feel yourself being pulled to yell, bribe or threaten your child so it appears like you have control over them and their behavior. Then, you worry if this will scare them.
Welcome to parenting a strong-willed child.
Though it is hard parenting a strong-willed child, they have the temperament and personality for success later in life. They will likely grow into strong leaders, have an entrepreneurial spirit and the potential to be more successful than the average rule-following child.
Know that your child does not blindly follow what is expected of them but instead, they stand up for what they believe in and what makes sense to them. This characteristic is valuable as an adult, but it has turned your life into a power struggle.
There are ways that you can work with your child rather than against them. No manual will help you with parenting your strong-willed child but hopefully, these tips may help.
Tip #1: Nurture their desire to know why
A strong-willed child won't just take your word for things. They want to understand why. They want to understand it for themselves. They will challenge you to understand. They don't want to just take your word for it. This characteristic is what will later help them succeed as a leader.
Instead of trying to push your truth on to your child let them come up with the why. Place the explanation back on them. Engage them in a dialogue rather than trying to impose discipline.
When you find yourself in a power struggle, try to step back, take a deep breath and with genuine curiosity ask them what they think.
Ask them, "Can you think of a reason why?"
Let them surprise you. It's amazing how much insight a strong-willed child has if they are given the opportunity.
You can foster this strength in them rather than trying to get rid of it and bend them to your will. They are smarter than you think.
Tip #2: Pick Your Battles
There are some moments when we can just let them be kids. We can let them get dirty, make a bit of a mess, chew with their mouth open, or let them touch more than we would like.
We have to be willing to let them learn on their own and resist the temptation to critique and correct every little thing. Instead, we can encourage them to validate the idea themselves.
Your kid is dumping out all of the toys from the bins on their play date. You could start to get upset saying, you are making a mess, stop dumping out all the toys! Or you could start a calm conversation with them inquiring into if they are willing to clean up all the toys they dumbed out.
You could ask, are you going to help clean up all the toys when you are done playing? Or have you asked if you can play with all those toys? Try to get them engaged instead of telling them what to do. Help prepare them to start thinking about the end result of their actions in a way they can think about on their own rather than being told what will happen.
Tip #3: Give Them a Do-Over
Children's brain is different than adults. They cannot think through their actions. They do not understand cause and effect or consequences yet. They are impulsive. The part of their brain that deals with these things does not fully develop until adolescence and young adulthood.
Children do not understand right away when they are misbehaving. Often, they catch themselves after and by then, it is past the point of no return. They brace themselves, ready to get in trouble. We want them to not go into this defensive zone. You can salvage the situation; you do not have to punish them for being human.
You can say, "Oops, why don't we hit the rewind button and you can try that again? It's okay".
This technique helps you to build a healthy connection with your child. You build trust with them as they know you believe in them and their ability to do better.
You are a good parent. Don't let the guilt and shame get to you. Work to understand and work with your strong-willed child, not against them. Nurture trust and tap into their resourcefulness and knowledge.
You got this!
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Do you have a strong-willed child? Let us know how you handle them in a comment below. Feel free to ask any questions or give any advice in a comment below.
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