If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, you’ve seen its effects. You’ve seen the haggard, weary-looking faces of countless mothers trudging through the grocery store aisles holding the hands of little ones wearing that triumphant “I’ve just got my way, again” smirk.
You’ve seen grown women brought to tears in the check out line or at the doctor’s office by a small, wriggling, screaming body that just won’t seem to quit. And while you may feel lucky that you escaped all of that torture, don’t congratulate yourself just yet. Your time for dealing with a strong-willed child may be quickly approaching and you will need all of your parenting skills to cope with it.
When talking about strong-willed children, there are two age brackets that pop into mind very quickly: the terrible twos and the always-torturous teenage years. While you may think that these two ages require completely different parenting approaches, they do not. Of course, the language that you use will change, but the basics for parenting strong-willed children stay the same no matter the age.
The key to parenting strong-willed children is consistency. Sounds easy, huh? Well it’s not. Children have a way of wearing you down until you just want whatever it is they’re doing to stop. Sometimes parents tend to cave or give in to their children just to bring the conflict to an end. This is the worst possible thing that you can do when dealing with a strong-willed child because it just reinforces that their negative behavior evokes a positive outcome.
To show children that their antics are not going to have any effect on your decisions, you must consistently show them that you mean what you say. Don’t bend the rules or let punishments slide no matter how tough it gets. While it may be rough in the beginning, the more that your child sees that you will not be swayed the more he or she will listen to you without putting up a fight.
Do not fight with your child. When nerves are strained and tempers flare, it can be very easy to fall into a pattern of fighting with your child. Avoid this at all costs. Always try to remain calm and unruffled, at least in the presence of your child. In order to do this, you will need patience. Don’t be afraid to take a break when things get too tough. Walking away from the situation for a few minutes of peace and quiet is often all that is needed to strengthen your resolve.
In addition to following these parenting tips yourself, be sure to bring the co-parent and grandparents in on the plan. If everyone in the strong-willed child’s life uses the same approach, the child will have to buckle down and follow the rules.
On the upside of things, strong-willed children generally become highly motivated, successful adults. They usually have high-self esteem, high energy, and extreme intelligence; they are just lacking the skills to contain their own greatness and let it shine when and where appropriate. Keeping this in mind, try not to brow beat your children into submission. Instead, lovingly show them how to control emotions and how to properly assert themselves.