There are many words used to describe strong-willed children and most of them
are incredibly negative. Strong-willed children get a bad rap, are largely misunderstood, and are classed as ‘difficult’ or ‘challenging’. Most of these negative classifications result from a parent's management style.
This blog gives you my top 7 tips to get your strong-willed child eating out of your hand!
1) Strong-willed children HATE being told what to do. So it makes sense that you need to avoid being a bossy parent. However, you m avoid being a laissez-faire or permissive parent as these are a recipe for disaster. How do you hit the middle ground, you're probably thinking. Here are a few ideas, 'We're going to the park soon. What do you need to do before we can leave the house?' This gets them thinking and a feeling of being in charge. Use transition statements to move onto a new activity e.g. "In 5 minutes, it's time for your bath' then 'In 4 minutes, it's time for your bath, let me help you put your toys away' etc. Timers can be useful, they love to beat the clock. you get the idea? Let them have a feeling of control.
2) Having a strong-willed child can create division within a family, especially if the
other siblings are easier going. Often seen as troublemakers, they are easy targets, especially when there is ongoing conflict and sibling rivalry. Society expects children to conform. Yet these children are the opposite of conformists. They feel every emotion intensely and never shades of grey. These are black-and-white thinkers and feelers.
Being a spirited child means never fitting in. As a parent, you may struggle to accept this ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ child, who regularly flings all sorts at you. You may wish they were like your other, easier-to-manage children. You may even tell them, ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister or brother?’ as you shout with exasperation at them, what you feel are unreasonable, demands. This child needs your acceptance just as much as your other children. They need
to know you have their back and you love them equally.
If you’re ‘doing’ something about the feelings, then you’re not accepting them.
It isn’t helpful to attempt to direct them to control their emotions. They do so
as their brain matures and through our modelling, acceptance, understanding,
3) Acknowledging the strong-willed child and their feelings is the key to connection. And connection is the key to validating their feelings. Once you validate their feelings, they are l up about what is happening. And discovering what lies beneath their anger. Adults know that finally making us blow our
top is not the cause. The root cause has often been simmering for days before the
final explosion. The same applies to children. However, it is essential you avoid giving the exact words for what you interpret as their feelings. To do so can cause a misread.
4) This holding space encourages them to open up through eye contact, presence
and an open and validating tone of voice. Validation gives understanding and says
your feelings are important and you matter.
Children need to hear this.
However, fixing tends to be the far more typical response children will hear in their
moment of raw outburst. Most adults have a personal agenda, directly oppositional to acceptance. Children’s emotional outbursts are uncomfortable for us as adults. And we’d like them to end as quickly as possible. Raw
explosive emotions make many parents feel uncomfortable.
It comes back to our wounded child and the unhealed part of us.
Therefore, it’s so important to do deep work on your old emotional wounds so you can help your child.
Your emotional wounds from childhood have no place here, clouding your judgement and your reaction. Parenting authentically means leaving your emotional baggage behind. This is not about you. It is about your child and
their unique life experience.
5) When your child is seeking freedom, clashing with the essential needs of another, it’s important to help your child constructively come up with a solution and a compromise benefitting everybody. As your strong-willed child gets older, you must understand your job keeps changing. It is essential to give more responsibility, and autonomy as your children get older.
Children naturally need more personal autonomy as they age, and it’s a logical
request. After all, they eventually become young adults. And as such, they need to be able and feel empowered to make decisions for themselves, including decisions about their health and social welfare. When adults fail to understand this and apply kindergarten-age restrictions on teenagers, we inevitably cast ourselves as illegitimate authorities. This is when disconnection occurs between teenagers and their parents.
6) Constantly saying, ‘Be careful, shows our children they can’t trust themselves and is incredibly irritating to a strong-willed child. It distracts them from the activity at hand.
It causes them to hesitate rather than gain confidence. To teach children how to manage and assess risks, you must expose them and guide them. Instead, it’s better to teach them to evaluate the safety of any activity by asking
questions such as, ‘Is it slippy?’, ‘Does it feel safe’, ‘Is there something you can hold onto?’ And help them manage, ‘How will you get down from the tree?’
Use empowering phrases, and you will then see their confidence grow.
7) Ways to Communicate with Your Strong-Willed Child
“I can see you didn’t hear me the first time. Have you got your listening ears
on? Good...how about, when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?”
Having your child repeat back what he hears imprints your message. Varying
the volume and the humour of the listening ears add an element of fun to
“I hear what you’re saying, Noah. Can you come up with a solution?”
Asking your strong-willed child to develop a solution places the
responsibility back on them. Next time they’re quick to complain, ask them to
find solutions. Reminding them there are no wrong answers, and that the sillier they
are, the better.
“This is a hard one, isn’t it? We’re going to work this out together.”
This phrase reinforces that you are both on the same team, working toward the same goal.
And if you'd like to know more of my insights and tips then head on down to my eBook on The Strong-Willed Child.
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