Parenting a Strong-willed Child

4 tips to help you


Last week I gave you 4 hints that you could use to determine whether your little one was a strong-willed child. If you DO have a strong-willed child, do not despair and tear your hair out, as the very qualities which make them strong-willed are fabulous qualities – they have lots of energy, they challenge everything around them and they are persistent. If well handled, these qualities can be a good thing even though they can make a strong-willed child quite a handful and a parent quite exhausted!

The secret to parenting one of these dynamos is not to break their will, but rather to get them to do whatever it is that you want them to do, because they trust you. Your child should learn that when you say “no” it is not because you are being nasty, but because you have their best interest at heart. Your aim should be to raise a child who has self-discipline, is considerate of other’s needs but who is also able to decide who he can trust and when the influence of another might not be a good thing! After all, you want him to be able to stand up for himself when the need arises! So, what is the best way forward?  How can we nurture those great qualities and encourage them to cooperate with us?

Here are another 4 tips which may help you parent your strong-willed little prince or princess!

1: These kids learn by experience.


They want to try it for themselves. So unless whatever they want to do is going to cause them serious injury, it is better to let them learn through the experience rather than trying to control them. With my one son, when he wouldn’t believe that touching a hot stove would burn his hand, I held his hand as close as I could to the hotplate,  so that he could actually feel that heat coming off the hotplate without getting a burn. Then I put a small piece of paper on the hotplate and held him so that he could see the paper catch alight. This then showed him that I wasn’t saying “don’t touch” just for the heck of it, but that his hand would burn like the paper should he put his hand there. It seemed to work, as he never did try to touch the hotplate after that!

2: Importance of being the boss.


Your strong-willed child wants to be in charge of his or her life. As your child reaches the toddler stage, it is vital for you not to nag at him to complete a task, but rather make a suggestion out of what you want them to accomplish. For example, if your child has forgotten to pack his or her special toy in his backpack and you know he/she will be devastated to find it missing when he/she gets to playschool, rather than reminding him/her to put the toy in the backpack, you could try saying something like “great, I think we’ve got everything you need for the day here, except for Barney the dinosaur – do you not want to take him?”. Let your child make the decision – this way there should be less opposition and they will also learn a sense of responsibility. This also holds true for your child choosing his or her own outfit to wear for the day. Provided they have chosen appropriate clothing for the type of weather, go with the flow and don’t panic if they are wearing a whole rainbow of colours!! If it is a stinking hot day and they have put a warm jacket on, they will eventually feel the heat and take it off of their own accord, so why fuss? One just has to find subtle ways to let your child feel that he is the boss.

3: Listen to your child.


Even though you are the adult and think you know best, it is important that if your child is going against something you want them to do you should first listen calmly to his point of view and actually find the reason as to WHY they don’t want to obey you. There may be a valid reason. For example, if you are insisting that your child sit on the wall to wait for you, he or she may be scared to do so (even if it is, hopefully, a very low wall!) as they are thinking of what happened to Humpty Dumpty!! You won’t know about their fear, if you don’t question why they are saying “ No” !!! It is, of course a fine line you have to tread as you can, and should, set reasonable rules and enforce them…but at the same time you don’t want to break your child’s will – he should be allowed to express his own opinions and feelings. You have to be able to see it from his point of view and then deal with that appropriately.

4:Respect your strong-willed child.


The strong-willed child is  fighting to be seen in their own right. If they feel understood, half the battle is won. At the same time, you also have to teach them to listen to reason – so if your 5 year old wants to wear his football outfit to school instead of the school uniform, you could tell him that everyone has to respect the school rules but because you understand that he is proud of being in the football team, when he gets home he can change into the outfit for the rest of the day. Or wear it over the weekend or whatever blows his socks off!!

Remember though, you have to set limits which suit your household rules. After all, you can’t let your child rule the house, and strong-willed or not, he is still a child!! But when you set those limits, you do so within the boundaries of your child’s perspective. You don’t have to be mean, you shouldn’t have to shout – but you will have to have a firm hand on the reins whilst still understanding your child so that you CAN set limits  (without being mean) which your child will generally cooperate with most of the time.

Just for your interest: Aforementioned son who learnt about hotplates being hot, is now a very successful lecturer at university, is very sure of himself, has a lovely wife and a gorgeous son of almost 10 months who adores him and this mother who is VERY proud of her strong-willed child who grew up to be such a super human being!!

Yours in photography,


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