Often a child who is more active, defiant, stubborn may get labeled and adults have a difficult time getting the child to obey or listen to their instruction. These children may fall into the category of ‘strong-willed’ kids which parenting experts consider as a positive attribute. These children display character traits such as courage, independence, having their own viewpoints and taking it seriously by sticking to what they feel is right. A strong-willed child is not one who intentionally sets out to resist authority, instead have difficulty with the way the authority is communicated and needs to be convinced.
Do you have a strong-willed child at home?
Are you finding it hard to understand or communicate with your strong-willed child?
Running out of patience?
Here are ten tips to help you understand, guide and communicate with your strong-willed child!
Tip #1 Help Your Child Understand Limits
Strong-willed children find it difficult to accept limits or follow instructions without understanding them. Limits are important for children, whether strong-willed or otherwise. Set key limits and boundaries and communicate this to your child, while at the same time explain why these limits are important. Don’t forget to run through the consequences that may result in, if such boundaries are crossed. Constantly shifting boundaries or inventing new limits make it difficult for the strong-willed child to understand and comply. So remember, be consistent!
Tip #2 Give Choices
Decide with your spouse which areas your child can have a free rein to make decisions and which are the ones you would give choices. The benefit of giving choices is that your child gets to decide and feel in control of the decision made. In corporate terms, we would call that obtaining ‘buy-in’ from the stake holder. Similarly, parents of strong-willed child have to exercise their parental wisdom (and perhaps your own emotionally intelligence!) and figure out how to have your child own the decision he makes.
Tip #3 Don’t Be A Helicopter-Parent
With a strong-willed child, it is preferable to let him experience the consequences and learn the lesson rather than hover, dictate and short circuit the child’s learning process. The child is more likely to learn the lesson by ‘living’ it rather than hearing an adult lecture about what could have happened. Not all situations are safe to let the child experience the consequences but bear in mind, strong-willed children learn better by experience.
Tip #4 Give Responsibilities
Strong-willed child thrives when given opportunities to take responsibility and master an activity. Depending on the age, you can start with tasks such as showering, brushing teeth to responsibility to clean and arrange his own room.
Tip #5 Listen
Sometimes a power struggle is due to the child feeling strongly about a certain view, which is different from that you have prescribed. Instead of a deadlock, consider taking a pause and understanding why your child believes his view is correct or why your view is wrong to him. Active listening will help build a strong foundation for your relationship.
Tip #5 Parent through Relationship
Strong-willed children are less likely to take well to punishment, which in itself is (almost) an art to administer to ensure that the child learns the moral lesson. Do not punish the child in anger or when ‘all else fails’. Take time out for yourself and get back to the conversation, and if discipline is required, be sure your child understand why his behavior is not acceptable.
Tip #6 Respect
Respect for every family member is important – model that for your child. In particular for strong-willed child, he may see it as more important than other children. This includes seeking his views (where appropriate), providing options and being courteous. Relationships will improve, likely your marriage will as well if you consciously respect your spouse in all ways.
Tip #7 Authority
Although parenting a strong-willed child may seem like a more ‘participative’ style, it should not be taken to the extreme of treating your child as an equal and allow him to disregard his parents as the authority. Conversely, due to their trait of testing limits, it is even more important to make it clear that parents are the leaders at home and the ones who set boundaries and limits.
Tip #8 Look at the Positive
Motivating a strong-willed child requires looking at their positive traits – determination, integrity and follow-through. When they have done something well, show recognition and give praise. (If you have been scolding your strong-willed child, praising him will definitely get his attention!) If the situation requires tenacity, direct your child’s energy and determination to the task.
Tip #9 Give Challenges, Solve Problems
Instead of giving your child simple chores to do on a daily basis, you can both discuss and work on a bigger project. For instance, re-arranging his room and keeping it neat and tidy so that the ‘new look’ will look better. Talk, plan and discuss with your child before allowing him to make his own decision on the challenge and problem.
Tip #10 Love, and be For Your Child
A strong-willed child may get misunderstood by other adults and peers; patiently and lovingly help your child to navigate this big and complicated world. Be your child’s cheerleader. Love always triumphs.
When parenting a strong-willed child, recognize that you have a child with unique gifts, talents and traits. Instead of trying to ‘break his will’, seek out ways for him to use his strengths.