Creative Child

How to Raise a Strong-Willed Child Without Breaking Her Spirit

by Deborah Song

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  1. Try to teach them through experience. Tell a strong-willed not to do something, and she’ll immediately become curious as to why not. Strong-willed children are experimental learners. So if they’re not in any danger, it’s probably best to take the time to show them why they should or should not do something. If you can’t show them, take the time to explain the logic behind rules and requests.
  1. Provide options. Nobody likes being told what to do. But strong-willed children find this particularly unpalatable. They need and crave autonomy and when you’re a kid, you get very little of it. There’s always a way to incorporate choices. Instead of telling them it’s bath time, ask them if they would like to go bath now or in 10 minutes. Or if your strong-willed child has done something that warrants an apology, give them the autonomy to figure out how they want to say sorry. Providing options helps strong-willed children save face, something that’s important to them.

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  1. Meet them half way with empathy. Most strong-willed children are fighting for respect, and being told no over and can be be a blow to their ego. One way to help your child maintain her dignity is by empathy. After providing empathy, they’ll be more open to listen to what you have to say.
  1. Avoid power struggles by establishing routines. Even strong-willed children are the sum of their habits. Forming good habits is an excellent way for strong-willed children to learn the discipline of abiding by rules. Establishing routines and rules also takes a lot of the work out of parenting because you don’t have to explain the logic behind those rules over and over.
  1. Remind them of their superpowers. Having a stubborn streak will land strong-willed children in hot water. It comes with the territory. However, when they are reprimanded repeatedly, they can develop a negative view of themselves. “How come I’m always the one getting in trouble,” you may have heard your strong-willed child say. It’s imperative for your strong-willed child to view their tenacious streak as a strength as well, and that they do indeed possess a superpower they need to learn to harness. To illustrate this, I have leaned on Elsa, the Disney ice queen. Before learning how to harness her powers, she used them clumsily. But once she knew how to harness it, her powers became a thing of beauty and good. In the process of teaching your child how to harness her superpowers, it’s also important not to compare your child to a more easy-going sibling or friend, who possesses inherently different qualities and propensities altogether.

Deborah Song is a Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based writer, who obtained her master's in journalism from New York University. She is the founder of worklifeparent.com, and is passionate about helping parents find better work-life balance and proper support through community.

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