We’ve all heard of a strong-willed child, but no one can know what it entails until you’ve parented one yourself. If you are the parent of a strong-willed child, you already know it’s a complicated situation. When your child communicates, they will want to do things their way.
Strong-willed children are often called determined, stubborn, willful, headstrong, and so much more. While these terms often are viewed negatively, the characteristic could be a positive aspect of the child’s life. By following a few tips for determined kids, you can find ways to make it work for both of you.
A tenacious child challenges authority from the beginning of their life. They want to bend the rules and make things happen their way. However, the experience doesn’t have to be harmful, and you can forget the negative stigma attached.
Many people believe stubborn kids aren’t well-behaved, but that’s not true. Adjusting your parenting to accommodate their willfulness, you’ll experience the benefits of having a determined child. You’ll help them grow and develop into someone who uses their determination for the greater good.
What Is a Strong-Willed Child?
A headstrong child has a strong sense of independence, beginning in their toddler years. The child will be confident and self-assured, which could manifest as strong opinions and defiant behavior. They are persistent and can’t divert their attention once they set their mind on something.
All kids will exhibit these behaviors at times, but a headstrong child will always be that way. While some of their qualities might seem discouraging, you can find comfort in many aspects. These kids are often self-motivated, go after what they want, and don’t give in to peer pressure.
Other benefits are that they have integrity, can’t easily be swayed, and often become leaders. Studies show that kids labeled as defiant tend to become more financially successful as adults.
Their courage allows them to jump in and learn things for themselves. They can’t accept what other people say, so they test things repeatedly to see what happens.
Headstrong kids are passionate, and when they set their heart on something, they can’t easily let go. They keep trying even when the task seems futile and experience intense emotions. These children have the mindset to focus on what they want and work hard to make it happen.
However, the key to reaping the benefits is that you must learn gentle but effective ways to parent your strong-willed child. With the correct methods, you can cope with raising a headstrong child. Then, your child can use their determination for something beneficial.
Parenting Tips for Those Coping with a Strong-Willed Child
Try these hints for coping with your headstrong little one.
1. Show Empathy and Respect to Your Strong-Willed Child
When raising a strong-willed child, the experience can feel defeating. You’ll make demands only to have your child openly defy what you say, eventually turning to meltdowns and tantrums. The key is to remember that your child has the same emotions you do, but they don’t know how to handle them yet.
You don’t like having people bark orders at you or tell you what to do and how to do it. Kids don’t like it either, but they’re urged to give in. However, headstrong kids aren’t as willing to comply with every demand all day long.
Rather than getting frustrated with your child for wanting to tell you their opinion, try listening instead. By listening calmly, you can understand why your child is defying you. Finding out their reasoning is the best way to create a plan that’ll work for both of you.
When kids feel respected and see you treating them respectfully, they’ll learn to do it, too. Not only does showing empathy and respect lead to fewer meltdowns, but it also teaches them how to treat others. The main goal is to treat them how you want others to treat you.
2. Listen to Them
It’s essential to listen to your child even when you think you know best. Headstrong kids have strong viewpoints that lead them to their feelings and opinions. Their viewpoints are also the reason they won’t change their mind quickly.
Rather than getting frustrated with your child for wanting to tell you their opinion, try listening instead. By listening calmly, you can understand why your child is defying you. Finding out their reasoning is the best way to develop a plan that’ll work for both of you.
Sometimes you’ll find that you did something to upset them, even though you don’t see the problem. Once your child explains it to you, you can talk about what happened. Be sure to apologize if you can see their point of view on why you made them upset.
3. Identify Common Power Struggles and Triggers
With headstrong kids, power struggles are unavoidable and might seemingly come out of nowhere. Whether you have a toddler throwing a tantrum, a teenager backtalking, or anything in between, identifying the triggers can help. Everyone has different power struggles and causes, so pinpointing what makes your child upset is essential.
Pay attention to when the power struggles occur. Even if you don’t see it immediately, there are likely some similarities each time. It could be about getting dressed in the morning or getting their homework done. Whatever the trigger is, you must identify it as soon as possible.
Once you’ve identified the power struggles and triggers, you can adjust to make the situation work. Develop a plan that gets the task done but allows your child to feel a sense of control.
4. Come Up with a Routine That Works for Your Strong-Willed Child
Bedtime routines are typical, but you can create one for any part of the day. If you notice that a particular time of day is hard on your child, switch things up and find a routine that works. Kids thrive on routine, and they are especially beneficial for headstrong kids.
Predicting what will happen next puts the child’s mind at ease and avoids everyday power struggles. When the child knows what to expect each time, they won’t throw fits or refuse to do it as often. Be consistent so that your child quickly catches onto what to expect next.
5. Give Them Some Control
When your child feels like they have power over a situation, they are more likely to accept it. They won’t push back as much because they get to choose what’s coming next.
Think about some aspects of your child’s life that you’re willing to hand over control in. Then, tell your child that you’re letting them take control of those parts of their lives.
Giving them some control encourages positivity and better behavior. You can let your child choose their clothes for the day, pack their lunch, or extend their curfew a little. The areas you loosen up on will depend on the age and maturity of your child, so don’t follow what anyone else does.
6. Focus on Problem-Solving With a Strong-Willed Child
Punishing your child when they’re defiant might be instinctive, but it won’t help long-term. Experts say that punishment can worsen the problem over time, even if it seems to work at the moment. Instead, focus on problem-solving and figuring out why your child behaves this way.
When you figure out why your child is being defiant, you can figure out a solution to improve the behavior. Then, you’ll have solved the immediate problem but also the underlying issue affecting your child. Please help your child think of solutions, and let them know you’re here to help them.
Four Things to Remember About a Strong-Willed Child
Remember these facts about the challenge of parenting stubborn children.
1. A Strong-Willed Child Is an Experiential Learner
Being an experiential learner means that they have to see things for themselves. They might hear multiple other people say something, but they’ll still have to try it out. As their parent, you can take control of this situation and help them use the quality positively.
Your child wants to test the limits, and that’s okay to an extent. If your child learns best that way, foster their growth and development. Allow your child to experiment as long as the situation is safe and there’s no risk of injury.
2. They Want to Master Things on Their Own
Headstrong kids desire mastery over anything else. When they try something new, they’ll keep working on it until they figure it out. Then, they’ll keep working on it until they achieve mastery.
As their parent, you can help them by letting them stay in charge of their activities. Let them feel independent as they take control of their lives, and they’ll be more likely to take responsibility for themselves.
3. You Don’t Have to Give into the Argument
Your child might like power struggles, but you don’t have to participate. If it’s getting too much, take a deep breath and sidestep the battle. Instead of arguing, focus on helping your child feel understood even with limits.
Show empathy, give choices, and respect as you discuss the situation. Find outcomes that allow both of you to win so your child doesn’t feel ignored. By doing this, it teaches them negotiation and compromise.
4. The Strong-Willed Child is Not Just Being Difficult
When headstrong child feels forced into something, they’ll feel their integrity has been compromised. They like to have choices and not have someone else tell them what they will do all the time. You can get ahead of this problem by giving them options from the start, even if it’s only a couple of options.
Final Thoughts on Parenting Tips for Those Coping with a Strong-Willed Child
Raising a strong-willed child will sometimes feel like a never-ending battle. Your child will resist what you say and learn the hard way every time. However, you can make their headstrong personality work long-term. Use these tips for coping with a strong-willed child and see what a difference it makes.