The weather seemed sunny and warm so, I decided to take my daughter out to the pool that day. But, by the time we finished our breakfasts and got our swimming outfits ready, it started raining cats and dogs outside.
“Sorry, sweetie! It’s better if we go another day because of the rain.” The last thing I wanted was us to get drenched and fall sick. As rational as it seemed to me, the decision was quite devastating for my daughter. She asked a series of questions, then wailed and cried, then tried her hardest to convince me with compelling reasons. When that didn’t work, she cried some more.
As far as I can remember, my daughter has always been someone who is persistent, outspoken and highly determined. She is a strong-willed child. And, all these qualities are extremely admirable but as a parent, it can sometimes be hard to face their challenging behavior.
As parents of strong willed-children, we have to encourage their cooperation while maintaining their spirited nature. Here is how:
1. Give up some of your control
Meet your child half way and give your strong-willed child options to choose from rather than forcing your own choices on them. When they have autonomy to make their own choices, they are more likely to cooperate with you in other aspects. So go ahead, let them choose their outfits or their meals a few nights a week and see how their behavior starts improving.
2. Diffuse tensions
A lot of power struggles happen unexpectedly but some are triggered or can be expected from your strong-willed child. So, it’s a good idea to identify those situations ahead of time and plan what you will do to diffuse the tension. For example, if your child refuses to do homework on a daily basis before TV time, allow them to watch 20 minutes before they start their homework.
3. Promote cooperation
Set rules and expectations regarding behavior before an event or situation takes place. This will increase cooperation from the child’s side and make discipline easier, if needed. It’s healthy to have discussions together on appropriate ways to react to a situation and which situations are negotiable or non-negotiable.
4. Be respectful and empathetic
A strong-willed child is fighting to be respected and to be listened to so give them just that. Really empathize with them, try to understand what they are feeling or asking for and be utmost respectful when engaging with them. You can start doing this by getting down to their level and maintaining eye contact when listening to them.
5. Establish routines
Rather than starting a power struggle daily, set out a daily routine together with your child based upon things that you both agree on. When kids know what is expected of them, they will be less likely to react negatively. This could include deciding on a bed-time, TV time, weekly meals and so on. Remember, children thrive on routines and this works extra well for our strong-willed children.