What you need to know about your strong willed child

If you’re lucky enough to be a parent of a strong willed child, you’ll probably feel a mixture of emotions about having one. You’ll feel blessed at times because you love their decisiveness, their confidence, their sense of justice, and their ability to stand alone and believe in themselves. Other times, you’ll feel exhausted, powerless, bullied, guilty and overwhelmed.

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Welcome to the world of raising a child with strength, guts, and an exceptional amount of determination.

Using all the tools in the toolbox

When parents book a coaching session with me because they have a strong willed child, I let them know that raising one of these children will require that they get well acquainted with the ‘advanced’ parenting course. Parents of strong willed kids need every tool in the box. They’ll also need the flexibility to choose which tool for which time.

Strong willed kids aren’t naturally compliant. They aren’t wired to blend in, to cooperate, to adjust, or see the situation from another angle. Strong willed kids want to win, they seek out fights and they don’t know how to back down easily. They have an enormous need for respect and an equal need to be shown dignity.

Understanding your child is the first step in working with them. Parents can’t take what they do personally – war will be declared and there won’t really be any winners. Much of who they are is ‘wired into them’ and they were born this way. Many mothers will say they had inkling when they were carrying this baby, and both parents will agree that it was evident very early on.

It’ll help parents if they’re aware that these children will push certain buttons in them. They’ll jump on the ‘tender spots’, so that parents end up doing and saying what they don’t want to.

The importance of disarming your strong feelings

When a five-year-old refuses to leave the playground because she has not finished yet, a parent will feel powerless, ashamed, alone and bewildered. Those strong feelings often prompt behaviour that matches the child’s. Lots of threats, warnings, shouting, bribing and emotion. And the dance has begun. Children of this ilk match emotion for emotion and will now dig their toes in and engage.

It doesn’t seem fair, but parenting is going to be the biggest invitation to grow that you’ll ever get. When parents learn how to disarm their strong feelings, take stock of the situation and calm down, parenting strong willed children will be much easier.

Your style has got to be robust. Children respond to the adults calm and composure. If they remain pleasant and firm under fire, the message they send is – I am in the control seat, everything is okay here, your needs will be met but I won’t be pushed around. This settles children down. They need to know that they aren’t so powerful that they can move the big people.

Firm but pleasant

If seven-year-old Bryce sees that his mum remains firm but pleasant when he asks for another round of ice-cream, he may try some other avenues to get her to change her mind. When he finds she is resolute and calm, he will deep down appreciate that. He may accuse her of being a mean and horrible mum, He may have yelled and cried. But eventually he realises ‘My mum is firm, she is strong and she does what she says she would do.’

If you’ve got a strong willed child on your hands, I’d love to help you. I’ve got an event coming up called ‘The strong willed child’ that I’d love to see you at. I’m also a Family Coach at Parenting Place and you can book a session with myself or another one of our awesome Family Coaches here.