If you are the parent of a strong-willed child or strong-willed children, you have experienced the challenge of grocery shopping with them and more! You are proud to be raising your strong-willed child because you like how they can think for themselves and you know they have a great future ahead of them but at the same time there are moments of total hair-pulling frustration when they do the opposite of what you have asked! How can you handle a strong-willed child or their pure defiance in the best manner possible, so that they maintain their wonderful independent thinking but also listen and learn when they are expected to? And also without you finding yourself completely losing your cool and your hair!
Teaching a strong-willed child can be a huge challenge! They do not like to be told anything! In their minds, they are their own decision makers so telling them what to do or how to do it can sometimes turn into a complete battle of the wills! They tend to have more of a Type A, or Alpha personality (not always the case, but often the case) which can cause conflict for sure as they tend to be sensitive and can anger more easily. They are more prone to tantrums and acting out than a Type B or Type C personality.
When a strong-willed child is acting out and requires behavior control and management, how can you accomplish this without it turning into a complete meltdown war between adult and child? How can you even discipline a strong-willed child without resorting to extreme tactics yourself?
Even though a strong-willed child wants to assert their independence at a very early age and they prefer to be their own decision maker, they also like guidance. And they want you to love them, and show that you love them, no matter what. However, when they are fighting against you or acting like they don't want your love (even though deep down they do) this can be confusing behaviour to understand.
They need to feel that their thoughts and opinions are respected. Acknowledge their thoughts and opinions, ask them respectful questions and if you know that what they want is not in their best interest, redirect them gently into an alternative thought or opinion. For example: A strong willed child suggests that they want a horse to live in the backyard, and you have a small yard and live in a subdivision. Your reaction might be "Don't be ridiculous! You can't have a horse in this backyard!", however this response offers no explanation as to why the child can't have a horse and can lead into a child negotiating with you and getting angry. Which can then also cause an adult to get angry and a simple situation to escalate into an unfortunate meltdown on both sides. A better response might be "A horse likes bigger places to run and our yard wouldn't make them happy. How about if we go to where they live and you can learn more about them? Would you like that?" This response offers a decent explanation, an opportunity for shared time with you, and is respectful of their thoughts. It also asks their opinion at the end, which allows their strong-willed gift to flourish.
If a situation with your child is not so easily handled and the defiant behavior is too consistent and feels out-of-control, it might be wise to have a strategic parenting plan in place. You want your strong-willed child to thrive and continue to develop their own thinking but they need to learn to respect others and their expectations as much as they want you to respect theirs. For parents who are struggling with too much conflict and are looking for a system that offers a good solution for parenting strong-willed children, the THE RED CARD BLUE CARD GAME (http://www.redcardbluecardgame.com) is highly recommended as a great proactive tool to handle difficult children. It can be used on it's own, or incorporated into other parenting systems, and offers the POWER OF CHOICE which is ideal for your strong-willed child! The Red Card Blue Card Game, is a balanced and consistent system that allows the child to interactively make their own choices and also experience their own results of those choices. This game is unique and extremely effective in managing child behavior and offers ease of use and fast results!
It might not be an easy road to travel with your strong-willed child but it is made easier with the right parenting supports in place and just know that one day, the child that challenges you so much will grow up to be an independent thinker and a successful human being that might possibly change the world! And they will most certainly grow into someone you will be very proud of. :)