Every child is a unique individual and will have certain characteristics that are endearing and some that are not so welcome. Thus, some children are easy to parent while others give whole new meaning to the term ‘parenting’! Strong-willed children fall into the latter category and can leave you exhausted at the end of each day. But having a strong-willed child is not a bad thing; in fact, it is considered a positive trait.
What is a Strong-Willed Child?
Strong-willed children are often described as ‘difficult’ or ‘stubborn’. In fact, they are children who like to have some kind of control over their life. They do not think twice about bending or challenging the rules and tend to rebel if you try to control their actions in any way. When things do not happen the way they want, they are likely to get angry.
Characteristics of a Strong-Willed Child
There are certain characteristics that strong-willed children display and it is likely that you are aware of what these are since only parents know their child really well. If you are still not sure, see if your child has six or more of these traits.
1. Impatient or Fast
They want to do everything quickly and be done all at once. Impatience is their middle name and they hate waiting around for things to happen. Eating, talking, walking, everything must happen fast.
2. Bossy and Controlling
Giving orders comes easily to them and they expect these to be followed. They have a certain idea in mind about how things should be and will do everything possible to implement it. They will not hesitate to tell you what they expect you to do in order to make their vision a reality.
3. Want to Learn Things By Themselves
They prefer to learn by the trial and error method rather than follow instructions. They like to be given the choice to do something rather than be told.
4. Will Not Do Something They Don’t Want To
Simply telling your strong-willed child to do something will not get the task done. You will have to look for creative ways to get the message across.
5. Make Their Opinion Known
Your child will have to put their point of view across on every small matter. It can be the new recipe you have tried for dinner or the colour of their outfit.
6. Throw Temper Tantrums
Young children, especially toddlers are prone to temper tantrums. But when it comes to strong-willed children, they experience intense anger which needs a lot of time to cool down. They might find it difficult to express their anger.
7. Strong Sense of Right and Wrong
Such children will do only what they believe in and thus, will not hesitate to fight for what they think is right. No amount of persuasion can budge them once they have made up their mind.
8. Argue Endlessly
They will keep on pursuing a topic till it is resolved to their satisfaction. Simply answering “I say so”, will not be accepted and they will question you till they tire you out. They love being in power struggles.
9. Switching is Hard
Strong-willed children can find it difficult to stop doing something before they reach their goal or complete the task in full. They tend to give their all to the task at hand and cannot just drop something halfway.
10. Think Out of the Box
A strong-willed child will stand apart from the rest in the way they think and interpret situations and issues. They are not bothered about what others might think and do.
Tips for Parenting a Strong-Willed Child
There is no one formula to be followed when parenting strong-willed toddler boys and girls. You will have to tweak your approach according to the behaviour and attitude of your child. Here are some things you can keep in mind while doing this:
Convey Respect and Empathy
When you respect your child, their need to fight for it is instantly doused. Once they realize that they do not have to fight to make you respect them, they are more open to communication.
Steer Clear of Power Struggles
Be firm about the need to follow rules and routines, but do not be aggressive about enforcing them. If the rules are the same for everyone in the house, and you let your child follow these in their own way, then it will be easier for all of you.
Lend a Listening Ear
Listen to what your child has to say about the matter at hand. This will help you understand why he or she is acting the way they are. Be non-judgmental and acknowledge what they have to say.
Offer Your Child Choices
Orders will not go down well with a strong-willed child. So, instead give your child a choice of options so that they feel like they are in control. For instance, ask your child if he or she wants to go home from the park right now or in ten minutes without any fuss.
Let the Child Make Decisions About Their Body
When going out, if your child wants to wear a particular outfit, don’t force him or her to accept your choice. If the outfit is inappropriate due to weather reasons, you could tell them to take along a jacket that they can wear if required.
Change Your Attitude
Usually, a strong-willed child doesn’t try to provoke you on purpose. It’s just the way they are. So, try to remember that every time you interact with your child.
Postpone the Disciplining
Disciplining serves its purpose only when the child understands the reason behind it. So, wait for them to calm down before pronouncing the punishment and outlining consequences.
Look at the Other Side
If you are having an argument or your child’s throwing a fit because you broke a promise, step into their shoes for a minute. How would you feel if you were promised something and then it was not delivered upon?
Give Your Child Some Authority
Strong-willed children need to feel in control, so, instead of nagging them to get chores done keep prompting them to remember missed chores till they complete it by themselves.
Remember That They Are Experiential Learners
Spirited children need to learn through experience. As long as there is no danger of serious injury, let your child learn from experimenting and making mistakes.
Keep Rules to a Minimum but Define the Limits
Too many rules will stifle the child and have you all stressed out in trying to enforce them. It can result in your child simply ignoring them all. At the same time, it is important to make it clear to your child that you are the boss at home. Define the boundaries of behaviour and make sure it applies to adults as well and is adhered to by all.
Be Generous With Praise and Emphasize Positive Traits
Ensure that you have encouraging words for good behaviour and reinforce positive actions such as when the child co-operates quickly. Your child will have his strengths, so try to channelize these the right way. One way is to look at being stubborn and difficult as being persistent and assertive.
Tips to Discipline Your Child
Disciplining does not mean the use of physical force to make your child come around to your way of seeing things. A spirited child is not likely to listen to direct orders or commands, so you might have to adopt other means to get them to adhere to rules.
Open Channels of Communication
Punishments do not serve any purpose when dealing with a strong-willed child. Speak to your child and see what is bothering them and provide them cues on how to express their feelings, be it fear, anger, or hurt.
Watch Your Tone
Shouting and yelling will worsen matters and being sarcastic or sharp can cause your child to switch to fight mode. So, take a deep breath and speak in a calm yet firm voice and put your point across.
If you threaten your toddler with certain consequences such as withdrawal of privileges, make sure you stick to what you said. Wavering in your decision will further embolden your child to test the boundaries.
Stick to Sleep Routines
Make sure your child follows a sleep schedule that gives them adequate rest each night as lack of sleep can make a child cranky and lead to frequent discord.
What is the Positive Side of Strong Willed Children?
A strong-willed toddler can turn into an independent adult who firmly stands by their beliefs. Such children turn out to be successful people because they do not give up on things just because there are some obstacles. Strong-willed children love challenges and take them on with alacrity and this tendency stays with them into adulthood. They have all the qualities necessary in a leader and are likely to make a difference in the world in some way.
Parenting a strong-willed child might appear to be a challenging task, especially in the early years. However, by nurturing your child’s individualistic personality in the right way, you can help them turn into a decisive, self-confident adult you will be proud of. By turning your attention to your child’s positive traits, you will be able to channelize their energy the right way.
Disclaimer: This information is just a guide and not a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.