As a mom of a stubborn and determined – aka strong-willed – little girl, I get to practice my patience daily, stretch it and finally pick my battles over and over again. Because parenting a strong-willed child, isn’t like regular parenting. It’s dealing with a child who’s more determined, more active and often more emotional than other kids. It’s parenting a child who has a drive of two and energy of three. It’s pretty exhausting sometimes.
But it’s also pretty rewarding. And as much as it can be difficult (because the strong-willed child will always want things their way!) sometimes I think it’s for the best.
I believe that my daughter was meant to be so strong, and my job is to never break her, just guide her toward right choices. Because these stubborn kids (who, quite frankly, sometimes drive us crazy!) will grow to be the most persevering adults, great leaders and passionate workers. Grown-ups knowing what they want and how to get it.
And I really think that strong-willed children need mostly clear values, encouragement and love. And that we’re not here to break them, or to show them that they’re not in charge of their life. Because they are! ( Yes, we are responsible for them as long as they’re little, and it’s our job to keep them safe, but it is still their life.)
And if they have more drive, more passion and more energy than anyone else, then what they really need is a clear compass, so they can use their strength to do good in life and to have a place in the society.
So I know that my biggest job as a mama to this particular strong-willed girl, is to help her find her purpose in life, to encourage her and let her grow. Even if it’s not always easy to be honest!
And so here are my three tried and tested tips to keep these strong-willed kids out of trouble, following our guidance yet still following their own path:
1. Listen to what your child has to say.
A strong-willed child really needs to express their thoughts and emotions, needs to be heard and acknowledged. Your child will do it ether in a form of a tantrum, either calmly and nicely! And it’s up to you to slow down, get at their high and ask them:” What do you want now? Can I help you? How do you feel? What is your idea for that?” Now, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always agree to their ideas and fulfill all their needs ( like a “need” of sweets before dinner). It means you listen, and you can talk about it. You can try paraphrasing their emotions:” I hear you’re upset. You’d like to eat more chocolate.” But if it’s against your plan, and there’s no way they are right, then look at tip 2!
2. Make clear rules and stay consistent.
Since strong willed kids want things to always be their way, they need clear rules of where they can choose, make a decision or propose a solution, and where they need to follow your lead. Because as soon as the situation is unclear, you can be assured that a strong willed child will try to take the lead! for example, we have a picture of four of our family rules, and another one of our stay-at-home day plan. So there’s no discussion about bedtime following dinner, or playing with balls at home ( that’s a no!) etc: the rules are clear and they don’t change.
3. Give them responsibilities, and ask them to help you.
A strong willed child want’s to feel in charge and capable, so instead of braking that need and turning it in to a rebellion of destruction ( you know the tantrum type of: I-don’t-know-why-I’m-upset-but-I-can’t-calm-down) give them a job to do. A responsibility. For example, when your strong willed child is at your feet whining when you cook, give them a real job to help you with. When you’re out and about, ask them to be in charge of a grocery list, or of picking the best apples, or taking care of their siblings. Depending from their age, they’ll love to be in charge of different things!
And I’m sure that by implementing these three simple tips, your strong willed child will be more cooperative, less explosive and overall more calm. Though, next time your stubborn kid does throw you a huge tantrum, just breathe and remember that your child is simply practicing his leadership skills on you! And that it’ll all pass!