If you’re the parent of a strong-willed child, you might feel like the two of you are constantly butting heads. Every time you ask your child to do something, they try to defy you. When they do listen, you practically breathe a sigh of relief. At any given moment, it’s a toss-up as to whether or not your child will rebel against what you ask them to do.
You feel exhausted. You don’t know how to cultivate a more peaceful, respectful relationship with your child. Part of you respects how your child stands up for themself, expresses their opinions openly, and questions things they don’t understand.
But as a parent, you’re frustrated and irritated when your child doesn’t listen. It’s especially difficult when you’re dealing with an urgent matter. Here’s how to approach parenting a strong-willed child.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
First, it’s important to pick your battles when you’re raising a strong-willed child. If your child is not disobeying an important household rule, or putting themselves or someone else in harm’s way, correcting them might not be worth it.
Sometimes, you simply have to allow them to make their own mistakes and learn through experience. Your child might be disappointed in the outcome of their actions. But they might learn a lesson, and you may be able to avoid a potential conflict.
Give Your Child Choices
A strong-willed child does not want to feel like they’re boxed in. They value agency, and they want to be able to make choices for themselves. Of course, depending on your child’s age, they may not be mature enough to make certain decisions alone.
But even when it comes to minor, inconsequential situations, you can give them some basic choices. For example, you could ask for their input when you’re planning weekly dinners, let them pick what they want to wear or which movie they’ll watch for family movie night, or even which weekend activities they want to do.
Teach Effective Communication
Parenting a strong-willed child can be tough. But your child’s strong-willed nature might serve them well in adulthood because they’ll be able to advocate for themselves and stick to their values in the face of external pressure. Yet your child will have to learn how to communicate their opinions and needs in a clear, respectful way as they get older.
Work with your child to develop effective communication skills. This could include taking time to calm down before talking about their feelings, speaking in a calm way even when they’re upset, and avoiding insults and outbursts so that they can compromise with others rather than engage in conflict.
Strong-willed children are not typically content to take adults at face value. When your child asks why a particular rule or boundary is in place, you’ll have to be ready to explain! The phrase “because I said so” will not work on a strong-willed child, so prepare to talk to your child about the reasoning behind your rules.
Be a Good Role Model
Finally, you have to commit to setting a good example for your child. If you tell them that they need to respect rules and other people’s boundaries, speak calmly, and learn how to compromise with people, but you do not exemplify these behaviors, your child will not listen. Keep your own communication habits in check, and demonstrate a positive example for your child through your own behavior.
Are you struggling to parent your strong-willed child? Working with a therapist can help. Reach out to us to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.