Most parents would agree that a strong-willed child can be a handful. We should first be aware what exactly is a strong-willed child? Some parents call them “headstrong”, “difficult” or “stubborn,” kids. On another part, strong-willed kids could also be seen as people of integrity who steadfastly hold on to their own viewpoints. They are experiential learners and would thus want to learn things for themselves and most of the times, they don’t accept what others say. Strong-willed kids are full of spirit and courage; they want to get things done their way and they will try to push the limits if they have to. Early on in their childhood, you may see that these kids want to be “in charge” of themselves. At times, you could also their desire to put “being right” above everything else. When strong-willed kids set their hearts on something, they do so by locking on to their targets: they’re not stopping until they hit them. Strong-willed kids are full of energy, passionate and live life at full steam.
Often, like mentioned earlier (the desire to “be right”), strong-willed kids are most likely to argue with their parents. The hard part of parenting such kids, is having to engage in a battle of wills or power-struggle of sorts. If it takes two to tango, it also takes two to have a power struggle. In the latter case, someone has to give up or give in. As parents, you need not be in argument mode when dealing with you strong-willed child. You can sidestep struggles by setting household rules and routines. This way, you won’t be pictured by your child as bossy because there is a rule understood and followed by everyone in the house. You can always refer to or cite a specific rule applying to something they are trying to argue with. At the risk of sounding clichéd, patience is a virtue you will need most with your strong-willed kid. Strong willed-kids will definitely push your buttons from time to time. You need to learn to take a deep breath and remind yourself that if you can keep your child’s will intact still get what you want, you can learn to sidestep those power struggles.
We should know as adults that no one likes being told what to do, and for strong-willed kids, it’s just intolerable. Parents can also avoid power struggles by helping the child feel he/she is understood even as they set limits for the child. Dealing with a strong-willed child needs empathy, giving the child choices, and respect that goes both ways. Parents should look for win/win solutions with the child rather than just laying down the law or forcing their will upon the child. Involving strong-willed children in this process keeps them from becoming volatile and teaches them essential social skills in adulthood such as negotiation and compromise.
Strong-willed kids are not necessarily being difficult. If parents impose their will on strong-willed kids, the children feel their integrity is compromised because they are forced to submit to another person’s will. However, if you allow them to choose, they would love to cooperate. If allowing your child to choose worries you because you think obedience should be an important quality, I’d ask you to reevaluate things. Of course raising a responsible, considerate, and cooperative child who does the right thing (even when it’s hard) is reflective of your parenting skills. But the latter doesn’t imply obedience. That implies doing the right thing because you want to – that’s being authoritative on the parent’s part. Being strong-willed isn’t totally a bad behavior. With proper parental guidance and support, it can even be beneficial to the child. You should consider yourself lucky if you have a strong-willed child. True, they can be a handful when they’re young, with parental sensitivity and guidance, they would grow up to become wonderful teens and young adults. Self-motivated and passionately driven, they know what they want and will go after it. With a strong mindset, they are never easily swayed by peer pressure. As long as parents stay patient with these children and resist the impulse of “breaking their will”, strong-willed kids often become leaders.
“Nothing is more destructive of human dignity than a rule which imposes a mute and blind obedience.”
– Anthony Eden