Strong Willed Child: A Survival Guide

You’re wanting your child to be strong, independent, and a leader. These are all good traits. But they do come at a cost. Truthfully, that cost is your patience as a parent. Raising a strong willed child is not easy. However, the benefits are undeniably beyond merit. That strong will that challenges you will serve them best as they grow older.

So then the real challenge is not to break their will. But instead, to foster it and direct that sometimes rebellious spirit. It’s not a simple task. So ask yourself this: do you want a conformer or a leader? If your child shows a strong will from the beginning, know that challenges await you as a parent. But also know that those challenges are building character.

How will you know if your child has these tendencies? Trust me, you will know.

Recognizing the Strong Willed Child

First, recognize the tendencies of your child. The personality of a strong willed child can vary, but they have some similar traits. However, it can be easy to dismiss those traits as behavioral issues. So, along those lines, take the time to see if your child has displayed a proclivity to engage in power struggles, is smarter than average, refuses to back down, or is prone to emotional meltdowns.

Likewise, if your child is a natural leader, seems outspoken, or asks questions, these are also signs that he or she is developing a strong will. Most of these are great traits. However, the determination and stubbornness will be a challenge. As the parent, you’ll have to meet these challenges.

Once you’ve identified how your child is responding to his or her world, develop a plan. Instead of resisting, engage and direct their energies. Although not easy, it will go a long way in avoiding unnecessary conflicts between you and your child.

Avoid Ultimatums

One of the most challenging aspects of raising a strong willed child is their ability to withstand any punishment. Next time your child resists an ultimatum, check their behavior. Did they remain in time out or without a favorite toy? Even though you are trying to manage their behavior, ultimatums usually don’t work. Instead, they drive their ambitious behavior. It’s not punishment, but a challenge.

So, instead of providing ultimatums, give choices. Remember that their will is strong. He or she will want to find their own solution to a situation. Providing choices will do that. By doing so, you’ll be giving freedom. At the same time, you’ll also be preventing the need to resist. Always be encouraging in these moments. Since you know your child best, you’ll have to know the fine line between character and bad behavior. But by giving options you may be preventing his or her actions from moving into a tantrum or some other outburst.

Be Predictable

So, this is a good pattern for all children. And it works great for little ones with an independent streak. Why? Because predictability is comforting. Those daily routines give a feeling of control over a situation. If your child can count on something happening at a set time, they will be more prepared to deal with it. This goes for almost any situation, from mapping out the school day to structuring play dates. Then when it’s time to shift gears, an outburst is less likely to occur.

Sound oversimplified? To an extent, yes. Of course this won’t prevent every outburst. But it will provide some calm. Over time, this practice will make future transitional periods easier.

Be Clear in your Expectations

Like many parents, you’re probably wondering how your child came to be this way. Always remember it’s not a flaw, but a gift. Somewhere in the future, these behaviors will begin to set them apart from their peers.

For example, your child won’t acknowledge you when asked a question. They are probably not ignoring you. Rather, they are more than likely highly focused on an activity. When the time comes to focus on schoolwork, this will be a bonus. So, instead of forcing their attention away from something, gently nudge. Set a timer and let them know when they are finished. Likewise, this behavior can lead to frustration. Be prepared to work through the frustration with your child.

Likewise, that intellect displayed by your child could raise your expectations. Avoid that and remember they are just a child. Rather than set higher standards, maintain expectations that are obtainable. If your child seems bored, challenge them. But know their limits. Chances are that they are already placing pressure on themselves. Give them room to grow but with a chance of success.

Similarly, recognize the value of failure. Your child is a problem solver. Failure necessitates change and growth. After all, a leader rises up when faced with adversity. With your guidance, your child can grow into the role at his or her own pace.

Grow with your Child

As a parent you will need to recognize your own potential for growth. Since we’re not all the classic “Type-A” personality, parents will need to address their own behaviors along with those of their child. Take this time to be reflective of your own personality. Even though your way may have worked for you, it will not work for your child. In reality you are learning to be a leader as well. Good leaders foster their followers.

Avoid disciplining your child in ways that punish their independence. Instead, look to push that independence to be intuitive. Because, for your child, their intuition is developing fast. Go with the flow.

Remember that teacher who could break through to any child? You are now that teacher. Your child will be the one testing boundaries at home and in the classroom. In a school setting, you will expect teachers to nurture your child and give him or her every opportunity. Likewise, you are in the same position.

Look at your little one. That fire in their eyes is a gift. It’s one that needs to be cultivated with care and patience. Your child will test your patience privately and publicly. Will it be easy? Not at all. But the rewards would make any parent proud.

Before you bounce, check out another article from one of our fabulous Mom Advice Line contributors:

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