I have two incredible children with very different personalities. I had to laugh when I gave birth to our second daughter 5 years after our first. I kind of thought we’d be using all the same strategies we had already been using – until that second child found her voice, that is.
My parents would tell you that I was a strong willed child myself (and my friends and family would probably agree). I know I was difficult – and I’m not sure how my mom and dad, in their own ways, encouraged me to embrace my strong will. Pointed in the right direction, a strong willed child can conquer the world! (Let’s just hope their intentions are good when they do.)
I have always been determined to parent my kids based on their own specific needs and gifts, even though sometimes strong willed kids can require a little more creativity. I thought that because I could relate to her, parenting her personality would be simple. I wasn’t prepared for having to tame my OWN strong will in order to succeed!
Let me tell you, I would NOT change the personalities of either one of my children. I see their individual strengths and passions, and I adore them both!
Today, however, I want to share some lessons I’ve learned specifically when it comes to parenting my strong willed child. These ideas have helped me build a relationship with her instead of feeling as if I’m only managing meltdowns all day.
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When given an ultimatum, she almost always takes the “or else” punishment rather than do what she’s been asked to do (even with consistent follow-through).
- What helps? Instead of threatening punishment we say things like, “You can have your electronics as soon as you are completely ready for school.”
She always makes things right after losing her cool.
- What helps? When she’s becoming overly frustrated, I need to remind myself to resist the urge to keep arguing and allow her to be alone for a while. She almost always comes out to apologize on her own.
She always responds to kindness more readily than firmness.
- What helps? I’m not as successful at this as I would like, but at an amusement park the other day, I had a very small victory. I’m a self professed germaphobe and my little one continually, absent-mindedly touched her face and mouth after touching every handrail in the park. I realize this is a silly, small thing – but I truly believe that most of our irritations are trivial. I childishly wanted to snap at her, but just repeatedly said, “Please don’t touch your face. Your hands are dirty.” She listened every time.
When I’m especially on my game (I’m usually best in the mornings) I’ll try to remind myself to ask nicely for things – even if on the inside I’m about to explode.
Her determination is incredible.
- What helps? Instead of getting irritated when that determination is honed in on torturing her pre-teen sister, we try to give her challenging tasks to conquer. We are often in awe at how focused she becomes when learning a new task. Whether it’s her homework or riding a two-wheeler, she won’t quit until she’s mastered it.
She responds best when given clear directions using the least amount of words possible.
- What helps? Oh, I’m a TALKER. Whether I’m trying to explain how she should treat kids at school, or how frustrated I am that her room is so messy, it can turn into a monologue. She very quickly shuts down and we end up in a battle. It helps when I give VERY specific and concise directions and then walk away. It tells her I expect her to do what she’s been asked to do.
A while back, we were at our local pool and my SWC decided she wanted to keep swimming when it was time to go home. I knelt down beside the pool (my voice was definitely more firm than kind, I’ll admit) and I told her she needed be out of the pool by the time I reached the chairs where our towels were – and then I got up and walked away. Now, there may have been some other not-so-perfect-parenting words in that exchange. I was not a happy mom in the moment – I’ll be straight with you about that! But when I got back to our towels she was behind me.
She wants to be heard.
- What helps? I have a tendency to “steam-roll” my kids when I’m upset. It’s not my best quality. If my little one feels like I’m not listening to her side of the story – it really frustrates her. I really try to hear her out before I steam-roll her now…just kidding. Seriously though, she will say, “You’re not listening. I’m trying to tell you what happened…” That’s my cue to zip it.
She wants to do the right thing.
- What helps? We have lots of issues with clothes and shoes around here. While I’ve learned to pick my battles, sometimes an outfit might be inappropriate for where we’re headed. In our most heated moments, I warn her that she’s never going to pick out her own outfit EVER AGAIN. When I’m not failing as a parent (that was a joke, people), I’ll tell her I appreciate how hard she works to pick out her clothes, but we need to compromise on something else. I’ll try to give her a time when she CAN wear that specific outfit, or give her the option to change into something different later in the day.
She needs time to process things we tell her.
- What helps? If I say, “Can you please put these puzzles away before dinner?” My impatient self wants her to immediately jump up to do as I have asked. But, if I try to count to 10 and just calmly but actively wait for her to respond, she will usually finish up what she’s involved with and do what I’ve asked. There’s part of me that still thinks she should “jump,” but she’s obeying in a timely manner and our house is much more peaceful when we pick our battles.
There have been numerous times when we’ve discussed how I thought she should handle a situation at school. She usually appears to ignore me, but always comes back to me the next day letting me know that she followed the advice I gave her the day before. Sometimes I just need to back off and let her process things!
Our strong willed daughter is smart, loving, and adorably FUNNY. No matter what personality traits they are given, I love learning to truly know my sweet babes, and do my best to parent them well. I definitely struggle daily with my failures and I apologize to them A LOT. Hopefully, together we can see the beauty and joy the personality of the strong willed child brings and work on changing ourselves in order to love them best.
My all time FAVORITE book on the subject honestly changed behavior around here IMMEDIATELY, and the principles still work. It’s a quick read with practical tips that are easy to implement.
You can read it via digital library like I did or you can check it out here if you’re interested.