Creative Child

Making Sense of Your Strong-Willed Child’s Behavior

by Rebecca Eanes


Solution Two- Loving Boundaries

In order to see improved behavior, it’s important to set loving boundaries. You want to convey to your child that you are not at odds; you’re a team. Tone and perspective are your two most important points, because they will determine how you approach your child and how your child accepts your instruction. 

Start by explaining expectations, not in a warning tone that is projecting your mistrust but in a “heads up” tone. Demonstrate that you believe in him and you’re on his side. “We’re going on this nature walk and I know you get excited and it’s fun to run but I’m not comfortable with that because it’s not safe. I’ll give you a signal or sign to know you need to wait and let us catch up. If it doesn’t work, we will hold hands.” Don’t view holding hands as a punishment but as help and connection. “I love you too much to let you go running off.”  

Boundaries and Spirit

Anytime we talk about strong-willed children, there’s always a concern about their free spirit. We love that our strong-willed kids are fierce and bold. We love that they are passionate, determined, persistent, and non-conforming. We don’t want to “break their spirit,” we just want to “tame it a little.” Unfortunately, this fear of breaking their spirit may lead to a failure to set appropriate boundaries, so we need to rethink how we look at boundaries. Boundaries are love. They are like the lines in the road that tells drivers where we can safely navigate. Without them, there’d be chaos and a lot more accidents and injuries. Boundaries keep us safe, so rather than viewing boundaries as spirit-breaking, we can see them spirit-saving. You are more likely to hurt a strong-willed child’s spirit by constantly calling her down or correcting her than you are to provide appropriate boundaries in the first place. 

Solution Three - Positive Discipline

Punishments, threats, and lectures will only erode trust and trigger push-back. Instead, set yourself up for success first by strengthening your relationship through quality time, laughter, and play. A secure attachment with you will increase your influence. When an issue arises, problem-solve together to find a solution. Ask the following questions: What caused this to happen? How do you feel about this? What could you do differently next time? How are you going to fix this? When you help your child to understand what was driving their own behavior and to make a plan to do better, you’re empowering them to take responsibility for their own actions. Teach them the necessary regulation skills needed to manage their emotions and give them tools for better behavior. This is much more effective than losing an iPad. Solutions are better than punishments because children need to learn to fix their mistakes, not just pay for them.  

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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