By Melodie Veldhuizen
You may already have read the article, Characteristics of a strong-willed child. You have for a long time known or suspected that your child is strong-willed, but don’t have any idea how to handle her. You are at your wit’s end and feel that you are failing as parents. It feels as if no-one likes your little darling and sometimes you as parents even find it difficult to love her. However, if you as parents stand together and handle her in the right way, it can become a win-win situation for everyone. Unfortunately, there are no set rules. Adapt your parenting style to your child’s behaviour and attitude, as well as her age. Some guidelines follow.
- Respect her and show empathy so that she doesn’t feel she has to fight for everything. It makes her more willing to communicate.
- Listen to her opinion about the matter at hand and try to understand why she is acting in a specific way. Don’t judge her and acknowledge what she says. It is important that you know why she doesn’t want to do something, or why she wants to do something else. This does not mean that you always have to give in to her demands.
- Keep communication channels open so that she can express her feelings of fear, anger or sadness freely.
- Give her choices instead of instructions. This will make her feel she has a measure of control over the situation. However, limit the number of options.
- Let her decide over her body. Don’t decide on her behalf whether she should put on a jacket if she doesn’t feel cold, or force her to wear a shirt if she says it scratches.
- Change your attitude. Accept that your child is not out to goad you – this is her personality. Always remember this in every situation.
- Put yourself in her shoes. If, for example, she has an anger outburst because you failed to honour a promise, think how you would feel if someone disappointed you.
- Give her a measure of power. Strong-willed children like to feel that they are in control. Instead of nagging continuously for her to do something, of forcing her to do it, just remind her about in a subtle way. Eventually she will do it.
- Because she likes to learn through experience, allow her to do so and learn from her mistakes, unless there is a danger of her injuring herself.
- Emphasise and reward positive behaviour and characteristics with compliments and words of praise and encouragement – this will also encourage future positive behaviour. Use positive words when you are discussing your child with teachers, family and friends in her presence.
- Guard against over-emphasising negative behaviour as it will only strengthen this kind of behaviour.
- Motivate her by for example saying, “Look, Mom is tidying the kitchen. You quickly go and tidy your room while I’m busy here.” Her sensitivity makes her receptive to positive words and actions.
- Be aware of your tone of voice, language use and body language in the general atmosphere you create. Negative experiences will cause her to become resistant, rebellious, talk back, aggressive and resort to anger outbursts.
- Create a genial and safe atmosphere at home. Continuous conflict and tension cause stress and uncertainty and result in negative behaviour.
- Predictability. Prepare her for situations that fall outside her normal routine or daily field of experience. By knowing what is going to happen next, you decrease tension and uncertainty and prevent anger outbursts.
- Rules and discipline. Limit the number of rules but set clear boundaries and be consequent in applying them. She must know exactly what is expected of her and what the consequences will be should she overstep the boundaries. Set realistic expectations, in line with her emotional, physical, mental and spiritual development.
- Threats, bribery or blackmail, raising your voice, don’t help. Don’t become embroiled in a power struggle. Allow her to in her unique way follow the rules that apply to all family members.
To raise a strong-willed child is not child’s play, but they have so much potential. It is your responsibility and privilege as parents to cherish her unique talents and to channel her strong will in a positive and productive manner. In this way you will cultivate a responsible, considerate child who is willing to cooperate. To try and restrict and tame her will make her vulnerable and receptive to negative influences later in life.
Cherish her unique personality in the right manner – by so doing your strong-willed child will eventually become a determined, self-assured, successful and fulfilled adult who can take her place in the community with confidence.
Aha Parenting.com. https://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/Parenting-Strong-Willed-Child
First Cry Parenting. https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/strong-willed-child-parenting-tips-and-more/
Mom Junction. https://www.momjunction.com/articles/effective-ways-to-deal-with-stubborn-kids_0076976/#gref
Mom Junction. https://www.momjunction.com/articles/strong-willed-child_00424026/
Parents With Confidence. https://parentswithconfidence.com/strong-willed-child-characteristics/
Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/creative-development/201301/the-highly-sensitive-and-stubborn-child
Understanding Compassion. https://understandingcompassion.com/articles/your-stubborn-child-might-just-turn-out-to-be-more-successful-and-wealthier-says-study/?fbclid=IwAR09jXHO7-4EA3EtUk8_jvjf5O2JJMPHb8DgBXedE3ImhuDUyY3aKwwZkjs