How do you know if you have a strong willed child? You just know. Nobody had to tell you and you didn’t have to analyze your child to determine if they were strong willed. Their personality is so strong that there is no guessing that they have a strong will. This type of personality is especially challenging to parents because it is difficult to parent someone who already has their mind made up about just about everything in life.
If channeled in the right direction and you don’t break your child’s spirit along the way, you can have a kid who is destined for epic things in life. Strong willed children are often highly self-motivated, so they are go-getters from a young age. Help your child become the best person they can be by parenting your strong willed child appropriately, so their spirit is not broken.
Below are tips on parenting the strong willed child:
1. Don’t make yourself the enemy
Don’t make yourself the enemy by making it your way or the highway. Being a dictator as a parent will only drive your child away from you and make you the enemy. Some parents want their strong willed child to listen and obey above all else, so they become forcefully strict in their parenting. They think that they need to act dominating and forceful in order to gain obedience from their child. This is not helpful for the strong willed child. This will make you out to be the enemy because the perception is that you want your way and you are against their way. It becomes a battle of wills; yours versus theirs. This obviously isn’t your goal as a parent; which is why you need to practice authoritative parenting methods.
Authoritarian vs. Authoritative Parenting
Parents should try to be authoritative parents of their strong willed child. Authoritarian parenting methods should be avoided, as this type of parenting is a dictatorship with parents trying to exert their will over their children. Authoritarian parenting is especially not helpful with strong willed children. Conversely, authoritative parenting methods are very effective with strong willed children. Parents who utilize authoritative methods have clear rules, are loving, consistent, while also placing value on their child’s bests interests. At the end of the day, their goal is to do what is in the best interest of their child. Rules for one child are not the same for another within an authoritative home. They see each child as an individual. They have rules, but rather than always seeing everything as black and white, which would be the case with an authoritative parent, they are willing to listen to their child regarding the situation at hand and determine the course of action in each case. The rules are not there to simply be enforced. Rather, the authoritative parent sees the rules as guidelines to the end goal of raising healthy, happy, morally sound individuals.
Seeing the rules as guidelines provides some flexibility.
For example, if you have a rule that your child’s bedtime is at 8:00 PM bedtime and your strong willed child wants to stay up until 9:00 PM because they want to watch the Miss America Pageant, then you take the time to listen their reasons and a discussion takes place. Your child explains that they want to watch the talent portion of the competition because they have a goal to someday be in this pageant and they want to see what kind of talent is needed to get to the Miss America level.
Rather than being an enforcer of the rules, for the sake of the rules, you begin to understand that they are wanting to watch because they have a goal and dream that they want to pursue. You allow a one hour flexibility in this case, but make an agreement that anything beyond that hour will have to be recorded. You also include in the agreement that if there is any complaining or arguing when the hour is up, then the show will not be recorded at all. Creating clear boundaries, but also taking into consideration their desires, dreams, and goals (within reason) will help you make better decisions that aren’t black and white all of the time.
The example above helps to create responsibility for the child with expectations, allowing them to not simply “have their way”, but to create an environment where they are treated with love and consideration. Their hopes and dreams should not be squashed or minimalized. Your strong willed child may have great dreams and you don’t want to send the message that their dreams don’t matter because the 8:00 bedtime is more important.
2. They need to make choices: Offer them options
Love and Logic parenting methods can work quite well with strong willed children. This parenting method emphasizes offering options to children. How it works is that from even the youngest of age, a child will be offered two choices for most daily decisions. This allows the strong willed child to be the decision maker for themselves. Strong willed children want to feel in control of their decisions and will. Allowing for decisions throughout the day, even on the most basic level, puts the decision making in the hands of the child. This is obviously within reason though. Parents provide the options, so they should be options that are win-win for the situation. For example, at lunch time you can offer your child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or macaroni and cheese. These are both options that you don’t mind making, yet it leaves a decision for the child. This helps the child feel empowered, because they are in control of decision making.
What if you went to a restaurant every day and there was only one option and no choice to be made? That could make it feel like prison day in and day out. Your child’s home environment can feel the same way to them. Are they being told what to do all day long or are they being allowed to make decisions on what they want throughout the day? Making it a point to allow decisions, with two options (that are both win-win options), you are helping your strong willed child to not only feel empowered, but you are also helping to develop a positive relationships with them. You don’t want your child to feel like they are being raised in a prison, so allow them to make decisions daily. You will have a better relationship with your child when you allow them to make these daily decisions because you are sending the message that their thoughts and opinions matter.
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