Help For The Strong Willed Child
I am an expert on this subject as I have one of these precious darlings in my family at present. So, I feel for you parents. But there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel – I can assure you.
The fact is that strong willed children need a different approach than the average child. Every child is individual and it is important to cater for these unique differences in some small way.
A great example is how I handle my daughter at bath time. I never say to her, “Becky, it’s time for your bath” as I have learnt that this can instantly cause a power struggle. Not the fact that I want her to have a bath, but the fact that I want her to do something right now.
Instead I go for the option of giving her a choice in the matter. So I would say, “Rebekah, you need to have a bath. Would you like it now or would you like it in ten minutes?” The answer is always “in ten minutes”.
But the secret here is that you are happy with both outcomes. She feels like she is getting a choice in the matter and everyone is happy.
Often if I know that something is coming up soon, I will also give her warnings. Say we were at a friend’s house and I wanted to leave, I would always give her warning. First I would tell her that she has ten minutes left to play. Then I would remind her at five minutes, again at three minutes and yet again at one minute. This way she can begin to wrap up her game ready to go home. I find that if children get an appropriate warning that something is about to happen, they transition into it much easier.
It is important not to enter into power struggles with your children so we as parents need to do whatever it takes to help our kids. Remember, the goal of parenting is to help our kids become happy, healthy and confident in the outside world. And if that means giving them choices then you should do it.
I’m not saying that I give my girl choices all the time. I use this method mainly when Becky is already in a non-compliant mood.
I also try not to give Becky many direct commands as this gives her opportunity to say “no”. When I want her to do some dishes for me I might say to her, “I need a willing helper to do some dishes. Anyone want to volunteer?” This way my kids have an opportunity to willingly help rather than have it demanded of them. This works particularly well in my family as there are four kids and often they want to be seen as the best volunteer.
Another tactic I sometimes use is to try to make Rebekah suggest what I want her to do anyway. An example would be if I wanted to go shopping with her at K Mart I might get out a catalogue and say out loud, “I wonder what is for sale at K Mart today?” It may sound like you are playing a game but you need to do whatever will get your child on your side and not feeling like you are against you all the time.
When you do have disagreements, the most important thing to do is to let your child know that you are listening to them. When they are unhappy they need to
know that you understand why they are feeling the way they are, even if you don’t agree with their feelings.
These tips will pay great dividends with your strong willed child. Good luck!