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5 Tips for Raising a Strong-Willed Child

These five tips for raising a strong-willed child can help you minimize power struggles, stubbornness, and tantrums. Read them on HealthyPlace.

Raising a strong-willed child can be exhausting. Your headstrong child might have you uttering to yourself something to the effect of, “I love you, but right now I don’t like you.” Forgive yourself if you have similar sentiments because they’re a natural response when a child seems to turn everything into a battle. The following five tips for raising a strong-willed child will help you feel less exasperated and more able to parent your bullheaded kid.

5 Tips for Raising Your Strong-Willed Child

1. See the flip side of your child’s annoying behavior.
Parenting a strong-willed child is hard. These children are prone to power struggles, difficult, full of unrelenting energy, always need to be right, and have meltdowns when they don’t get their way.

While accurate, these traits aren’t the only ones that fit. Your child has the potential to grow into a leader with a host of positive strengths. You might even see glimmers of these already:

  • autonomous and independent
  • a free thinker
  • curious (always asks “why”)
  • intelligent
  • determined
  • outspoken
  • willing to stand up for what they believe in
  • self-motivated
  • resistant to peer pressure
  • perseverant in pursuing goals

These traits will serve your child well in life. Shifting your perspective and seeing your child’s strengths and potential underlying the obstinate behavior can help you develop these traits.

2. Parent to Your Strong-Willed Child’s Specific Needs
Like all children, strong-willed kids have needs that must be met in order to thrive. Part of thriving is fitting in with the family and behaving in an acceptable manner. Willful kids’ needs include:

  • Control over themselves and their actions: Give your child choices whenever possible.
  • Power: Let your child be part of family decision-making when age-appropriate.
  • Connection: Perhaps surprisingly, these kids want and need quality time with their family.
  • Respect: Communicating by talking calmly and listening fully increases cooperation.
  • Being heard: Again, listen to your strong-willed child and seek to understand them, even when you won’t give in to their wishes.
  • Trust: They need to know they can trust you to keep your word, and they need you to trust them to make choices and have some autonomy.

In general, working with your child rather than approaching them as if they’re too young to have a say goes a long way toward empowering them and respecting them. Unwanted behaviors will gradually decline as these needs are met, and you’ll begin to feel respected as a parent.

3. Parenting Without Power Struggles Requires Structure and Predictability.
Kids need stability. They need to know that life is orderly in order to feel secure. Strong-willed kids need routines to help them feel in control. Without daily routines, these kids can feel manipulated, uncertain of what will happen, and powerless to make choices. When strong-willed children feel at the mercy of adults who aren’t, in their minds, behaving rationally, they have meltdowns.

Creating predictable routines that the whole family follows helps soothe a strong-willed child. Involve your child in establishing routines, giving them personal choices when practical. This way, when your family operates within the structure, power struggles will be minimized.

 4. Stand Your Ground When Facing a Meltdown
Even a strong-willed child who is vocalizing (inappropriately) their need for power and control needs parental comfort during a meltdown, perhaps more than other kids because these autonomous kids don’t like feeling out of control.

Stay nearby, and as the tantrum loses intensity, validate their feelings and empathize. Listen attentively as they tell you why they’re angry and upset. Respect them by acknowledging their feelings. Then calmly stand your ground. State what you need them to do but provide a choice. Letting them decide what order to do things or how to complete a task gives your child some control and allows you a positive parenting moment.  

5. Remember Your Parenting Goals.
It can be easy to lose sight of the big picture when dealing with daily issues, so remember your parenting goals. As you try to get through heated moments, ask yourself:

  • Do I want my child to be obedient or cooperative?
  • Do I want my child to give in and give up or to learn negotiation skills?
  • How can I act in ways that will foster development of the positive aspects of being strong-willed?

These five tips for raising a strong-willed child can positively change your relationship with your child. You could find that parenting a strong-willed child, while still challenging, just might become less tiring and maybe even more fun.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, July 7). 5 Tips for Raising a Strong-Willed Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parenting-skills-strategies/5-tips-for-raising-a-strong-willed-child

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD