Updated: Nov 3, 2021
I recently polled my online community to see how many parents felt that they had a strong willed child. I figured it's helpful to know that you're not alone since these kiddos have their own way of running things (ever heard of that saying "its my world you're just living in it?" yea, it was probably written by one of those kiddos).
After leaving the poll up for a few hours then checking back on it, do you know what the results were? 100% of the parents who answered reported that they had a strong willed child! Like, all of them said yes. I knew there would be more yeses than no's but I didn't think *every* person would say they were all in the thick of it together.
With such a common alignment, let's define what a strong willed child is, shall we? Dr. Laura Markham of Aha Parenting states,
Strong-willed kids are spirited and courageous. They want to learn things for themselves rather than accepting what others say, so they test the limits over and over. ... Strong-willed kids have big, passionate feelings and live at full throttle. Often, strong-willed kids are prone to power-struggles with their parents
Do you agree? I would add that these kiddos often want to understand the meaning behind the rules before they adhere to them. So you may have a child who frequently asks "why" when you tell them to do something; they really want to get it before they do it.
For most of these parents, it can be extremely trying and frustrating at times to have a child who pushes back and needs to exert their control over so many situations. After all, we have our own to-do lists, time crunches, and feel we know whats right. For our children, they feel that pressure from us and lack of control. So they push harder. They are not trying to be challenging, but they thrive on autonomy and being their bright full selves.
Parents often find themselves in what I call the "no" cycle. This is when your child is pushing back, being independent, or not listening and you're saying "no" more often than not. You're becoming irritated, stuck, and lack the fun playful alternatives to responding to your child's behaviors. This cycle feels bad for both the parent and child because its the ultimate power struggle; both parties want to be in control of the situation and are on opposite ends of the playing field. It happens. It's normal. But it suuucks.
So what the heck do we do then? Because even though were all in this same boat with our strong willed kids, that doesn't mean we need to be butting heads and miserable.
My #1 tip for raising a child who is strong willed is simple, yet effective! It's all about the re-frame. When we have a child that is arguing back about why they should be the ones to put the groceries on the conveyor belt instead of you, shift from thinking they are "testing" you or trying to "get their way". When we link ugly motivations behind their behavior, we're going to react negatively and continue the cycle. However, when we re-frame and flip to a positive quality, we will respond and handle the situation better. So when your kiddo is sharing why she wants to put the groceries up herself, think "such a big helper and learning skills".
Now, does that mean that they can do what ever they want and you have happy thoughts about how they are acting all day? Absolutely not. They need rules, boundaries, and containment. Please, for the sake of raising a good human, let your child know that they may not speak to you poorly or override you putting groceries on the belt as well. But by shifting your mindset and the words that you use to describe your child's behaviors, it will make the interactions go wayyy better.
Parenting is hard work especially when your child is strong headed and wants to do things their way. As the adult, you have such a special gift to be able to change how you perceive this behavior. Not all of the time because we need realistic expectations for ourselves, but more often than not. Hell, start with 1 out of 5 and work your way up. Your child will pick up on the little shifts you make and feel safer and "good". They don't like when you're upset with them (nor do you) so they will feel the positivity when you make the shift!
Enjoy the path to re-framing these thoughts. If you're interested in learning how to confidently navigate the behaviors your kiddo throws at you, check out the free Master Class I host: