Strong willed children are courageous and lively. They prefer to learn things on their own rather than just accepting what is taught to them. It can be difficult to parent a child that prefers to be in charge or that has passionate feelings about things. Here are 11 tips for parenting the strong willed child in your household.
Parenting The Strong Willed Child
- Keep in mind that he is an experiential learner
This means he likes to see for himself if the stove really is hot. Unless you are concerned about serious injury, sometimes instead of controlling him it is best to let him learn through experiencing it. It can be daunting at times because you will be tested repeatedly, often to your limits. But once you have worked out how to remain calm, your relationship can improve, and your nerves will stay intact.
- Let him master things on his own
Give him opportunities to take charge by handling as many activities as possible. Instead of nagging him to brush his teeth, instead ask him what needs to be done before he leaves. Let him come up with the things on the list that needs to be ticked. Children who feel that they are in charge and have independence, are less likely to be oppositional, plus they learn to take responsibility at a young age.
- Try to steer clear from power struggles through using rules and routines
This way you are not the bad cop by telling him what to do. You can mention that the rule says you can only have a treat after finishing a meal or you can say that in your house you always finish chores before you get screen time.
- Present him with choices
If you simply dish out orders, you are bound to get some resistance. If you present him with a choice, he feels that he is in charge of his destiny. But remember to provide choices that you feel you can live with and do not come up with ones that make you feel resentful by shifting the power to him. For instance, if he does not want to stop playing to go to bed, offer an alternative. Give him ten extra minutes to finish playing and then pack up without a fuss.
- Avoid driving him to oppose you
Being forceful almost always results in “push back” and this goes for humans of all age groups. Try not to push him into defiance just to prove a point. Stop for a second, take a nice big breath, and remind yourself that winning this battle might set you up for losing what is most essential, your relationship. Sometimes it is worth letting him decide for himself and meet his needs, but not in a situation where his safety or health is compromised.
- Avoid power struggles by allowing him to save face
Sometimes you do not have to prove that you are right. It is best to set sensible expectations and impose them. But never force him to submit to your views or attempt to break his will. He must do what you ask of him but permit him to have feelings and opinions regarding it.
- Give him authorisation over his own body
It is hard for kids to imagine feeling cold when they are feeling warm inside the house. Instead of forcing him to put on his jacket rather give a reasonable explanation. You can say that you have heard that it is going to be a cold day today and that you are most certainly going to put on your jacket. If he does not want to put on the jacket right away, put it in his backpack and tell him that he could put it on if he feels cold later on.
- Try to see it from his viewpoint
If you promised to do something but could not live up to the promise for valid reasons, you know he is going to be upset with you. He might think that you are being hypocritical because he is not allowed to break his promises to you but now you have broken yours to him. The best way to handle this is by sincerely apologizing and reassuring him that you are going to try your hardest to always keep your promises to him. But you must try to do so and not just say so. Try to treat him the way you would want to be treated.
Adults presume that they always know what is best. But remember that he probably has a strong will because of his sense of integrity. His viewpoint is making him hold fast to the position he is in and he feels that he is protecting what is important to him. Try to listen calmly and try to understand why he is opposing you. Try not to be judgmental and dig deeper to find out why he feels the way he does. You will often be surprised at what they come up with.
- Always discipline through your relationship, and not through punishment
Kids do not learn anything when they are stuck in the middle of a fight. Remember, just like you, their adrenaline sets in and the learning side shuts down. Children behave because they strive to please you. The more you resist and punish them, the more you are undermining his desire to please you. When he is upset, rather help him to express his fear, hurt, or disappointment. He will be more ready to listen afterwards when you remind him that in your home everyone talks kindly to one another.
- Try to give show him empathy and respect
Most children who are strong willed are seeking respect. If you provide it to them, they will not have to battle to protect their stance. It helps if you let them feel like they are understood. If you try to see things through his perspective, it might make things a lot easier for both of you. This is not permissive parenting because you are still setting the limits. However, you set them with your child’s perspective in mind, which makes him more obliging.
We hope this post has been helpful to you and that it will give you some guidance for parenting the strong willed child in your home. Sometimes, they are not stubborn but simply need to be understood.
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