(CMR) Do you have a child who you think is “difficult” or “stubborn:? Well, you may just be parenting a strong-willed child. No one likes being told what to do, but strong-willed kids find it unbearable.
Motherly describes strong-willed kids as people of integrity who aren't easily swayed from their own viewpoints. Strong-willed kids are spirited and courageous. They want to learn things for themselves rather than accept what others say, so they test the limits repeatedly. These children like being in charge and being right at all times. They are usually really passionate and will work hard to ensure whatever task they start is completed successfully.
While strong-willed kids have these positive attributes, there can be a power struggle when it comes to parenting. So how do you parent a child who apparently wants to be “in charge” of himself? Motherly advised You don't have to attend every argument to which you're invited! Don't let your four-year-old make you act like a four-year-old yourself!
Motherly recommends parents avoid power struggles by helping the child feel understood even as the parent sets limits and by empathizing, giving choices, and understanding that respect goes both ways.
These children are not just being difficult; if they are allowed to choose, they will cooperate. . While you want to raise a responsible, considerate, cooperative child who does the right thing, even when it's hard, that doesn't imply obedience.
Motherly explains that while you want your child to do what you say, it should not be because he's obedient, meaning that he always does what someone bigger tells him to do. You want him to do what you say because he trusts YOU because he's learned that even though you can't always say yes to what he wants, you have his best interests at heart. You want to raise a child who has self-discipline, takes responsibility, and is considerate—and most important, has the discernment to figure out who to trust and when to be influenced by someone else.
According to Motherly, Here are some tips for peaceful parenting of your strong-willed child:
Your strong-willed child wants mastery more than anything- Let her take charge of as many of her own activities as possible. Don't nag at her to brush her teeth—ask, “What else do you need to do before we leave?” If she looks blank, tick off the shortlist— “Every morning we eat, brush teeth, use the toilet, and pack the backpack. I saw you pack your backpack, that's terrific! Now, what do you still need to do before we leave?”Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to be oppositional. Not to mention, they take responsibility early.
Give your strong-willed child choices- If you give orders, he will almost certainly bristle. If you offer a choice, he feels like the master of his own destiny. Of course, only offer choices you can live with, and don't let yourself get resentful by handing away your power.
Avoid power struggles by using routines and rules- That way, you aren't the bad guy bossing them around, it's just that “The rule is we use the potty after every meal and snack,” or “The schedule is that lights-out is at 8 p.m. If you hurry, we'll have time for two books,” or “In our house, we finish homework before screen time.”
Don't push him into opposing you- Force always creates “push-back”—with humans of all ages. If you take a hard and fast position, you can easily push your child into defying you just to prove a point. You'll know when it's a power struggle, and you've invested in winning. Just stop, take a breath, and remind yourself that winning a battle with your child always sets you up to lose what's most important—the relationship.
Side-step power struggles by letting your child save face- You don't have to prove you're right. You can, and should, set reasonable expectations and enforce them. But under no circumstances should you try to break your child's will or force him to acquiesce to your views. He has to do what you want, but he's allowed to have his own opinions and feelings about it.
Listen to her- You, as the adult, might reasonably presume you know best. But your strong-willed child has a strong will partly as a result of her integrity. She has a viewpoint that is making her hold fast to her position, and she is trying to protect something that seems important to her. Only by listening calmly to her and reflecting on her words will you come to understand what's making her oppose you. A non-judgmental— “I hear that you don't want to take a bath. Can you tell me more about why?”
See it from his point of view- For instance, he may be angry because you promised to wash his superman cape and then forgot. To you, he is being stubborn. To him, he is justifiably upset, and you are being hypocritical because he is not allowed to break his promises to you, but you broke yours to him. How do you clear this up and move on? You apologize sincerely for breaking your promise, you reassure him that you try very hard to keep your promises, and you go, together, to wash the cape. You might even teach him how to wash his own clothes so you're not in this position in the future and he's empowered. Just consider how you would want to be treated, and treat him accordingly.
Discipline through the relationship, never through punishment- Kids don't learn when they're in the middle of a fight. Like all of us, that's when adrenaline is pumping and learning shuts off. Kids behave because they want to please us. The more you fight with and punish your child, the more you undermine her desire to please you. If she's upset, help her express her hurt, fear or disappointment, so they evaporate. Then she'll be ready to listen to you when you remind her that everyone speaks kindly to each other in your house.
Offer respect and empathy- Most strong-willed children are fighting for respect. If you offer it to them, they don't need to fight to protect their position. And, like the rest of us, it helps a lot if they feel understood. If you see his point of view and think he's wrong—for instance, he wants to wear the superman cape to church, and you think that's inappropriate — you can still offer him empathy and meet him part way while you set the limit.“You love this cape and wish you could wear it, don't you? But when we go to services, we dress up to show respect, so we can't wear the cape. I know you'll miss wearing it. How about we take it with us so you can wear it on our way home?”