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Parenting Strong Willed Children

Dealing With A Strong Willed Child

"Time to get your shoes on."


"Come on let's go, we need to leave."

"I am NOT going! You can't make me."

"Let's go, or else!"

More often then not, the strong-will child will choose or else. We've all been there where we can't seem to get our child to stop - or start what she's doing, but for some parents, dealing with a strong willed child is a life style- rather than an experience of a mere stubborn moment.

If you find yourself in a battle of wills with your child, here are some tips to help.

Strong-willed children are usually problem solvers. They respond better to being presented with a problem- rather than a command. "How are we going to get these dishes into the sink" works better than "Put your dishes up" because it poses a challenge of thought to the strong willed child.

Strong-willed children tend to be of high intelligence. They will pick up on inconsistencies with rules and consequences and are apt to call your bluff. With strong willed children you need to mean what you say and say what you mean- or they'll call you out on it.

With a strong-willed child it's more about communication than control. We are all given free will- a strong willed child just seems to have discovered it a bit sooner than we would have liked. When a strong willed child is presented with commands, rather than choices, his default behavior will be to buck authority because he feels like his choices have been taken away. Giving a strong willed child two choices you can live with, works better than a command. "We need to go, do you want to wear shoes or sandals?" works better than "Put on your shoes."

Providing opportunities for input and "help" when you can afford it, will cause less of a stir in the times when you can't consider her thoughts or opinions. Letting a child pick their own clothes on the weekend, for example, will make your school day dressing battles easier to overcome.

Give warnings before transitions. "Five minutes then we need to wrap up the game" will save you lots of war time during transitions.

Foster independence. Provide him with independence. When potty training allow him to help choose his potty, his underwear and even his hand soap. Getting him involved with the process will empower him and make him feel like he has some control.

Love your child unconditionally. Praise her when she's being cooperative and when she solves problems.

Comments (6)

Hi there,

I would strongly encourage you to read 123 Magic by Thomas Phelan. It will help you learn to get behaviors to start and stop without being emotional.

As a single mom you need to be sure you needs are met so you can meet the needs of the children. If you're feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help.

I would suggest a visual reminder for her, a chore chart and spending one on one time iwth her. Try positive purposeful praise when you catch her doing what you'd like.

Choose your battles wisely as well. Consider what's most impotant to you and work on those things one at a time.

Let go of the guilt. Just because you feel guilty doesnt mean you are. If you are doing whats best for your family, thats all that matters.

Best of luck!!
#6 - Michelle LaRowe - 01/10/2013 - 18:19
End of my rope
I am a mother of 2 girls a 3 month old and a 6 year old. I admit that lately a lot of my time is spent with the baby for obvious reasons. My husband is very good at helping me with the girls. But within the last year or so My 6 yr old little girl Madison has been almost intolerable she has 0 respect for things. She argues with me about EVERYTHING! She has to be reminded a million times to do the smallest tasks throughout the day. Did you brush your teeth? Don't forget your backpack. Close the door. Turn off the lights. We have had the same bedtime routine for years yet she still has to be told to do everything. She makes a huge mess no matter what she is doing. I have organized all of her things and spent countless times showing her how to take care of herself and belongings. I feel like I am constantly on her case. I try not to spank unless its relly bad because it doesn't seem to work. Time outs are so regular it seems like that's all she does. I feel like I am talking to a wall. Other family members have begun to get frustrated with her behavior and it embarrasses me and also makes me feel bad for her, I want her Aunts and grandparents to enjoy her company.

I want to enjoy my child and for her to have a childhood with memories of me not yelling or being upset.

Her dad and I separated when she was really young I feel a lot of guilt about that. He also been out of the picture lately because of problems with the law. He is not the best example and doesn't share the same morals and expectations as I do. Because of his inappropriate behavior (drinking, violence) around her I have taken him to court which resulted in his parenting time to be suspended. Madison is having a very tough time dealing with that. I know I am not doing something right or maybe not anything I don't know what else to do please help.
#5 - Ashtin - 11/29/2012 - 10:25
my 3 year old grandson constantly says shut up all day long.my daughter is at her wits end.nothing seems to work. HELP PLEASE
#4 - patty - 10/28/2012 - 03:02
Unruly 6 yr. old daughter, what to do??
I have a head strong 6 yr. old child, and I get very upset and don't know how to work with her to find an alternitve way of disiplining her. She is so stubborn that I have tried all ways; giving her options, telling her that she will loose goodies, even spanking her on the butt dosen't seem to make her understand that what she has done is wrong. She very smart and is still having a hard time in school. She tends to zone out, and get a spacy stare when she isn't entertained by something.
I have gotten to the point of complete frustration and I have lost my temper a few times and had to walk away from the fight to keep my cool.
How do I talk with her in a way that she understands and work with me? I am so lost as to how to fix these problems without putting her on time outs and even punishing her with no toy options.
Please help me understand how to work with her and how to keep my temper down.
#3 - Tatiana H. - 11/16/2010 - 22:06
I have a strong willed child and you are right to say he is smart. But his character is to test and the only way to deal with him is to be consistent. Choices and consistency are also very important. I wrote a review on Robert MacKenzie\'s Setting Limits for the Strong Willed Child. I highly recommend it.
#2 - mamashares - 04/21/2010 - 16:04
strong willed teenager driving me crazy!!
Thanks for you advice, my 15 year old daughter, besides being 15 she has always being very strong! her always say eversince she was little\" I can do whenever i want and when I want to do it!! or I know everything, you can\'t make me\".
The problem is also that she is a very smart kid, and pretty much she know how to do things very well, but she does\'nt listen to my advice most of the time!! is driving me crazy and I don\'t know how to get to her!!
#1 - nora plott - 11/12/2009 - 01:30
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