Last week, I wrote the part one of It Doesn’t Have to be a Battle: Tips for Managing the Strong-Willed Child. If you haven’t read it, be sure to check it out!
This is part two of tips to help you manage a strong-willed child. As I mentioned in my first post, I have 2 strong-willed children. So, I do have a bit of experience in handling the strong-willed spirit. My husband is also strong-willed – a trait I have grown to appreciate! Some might say I am a bit strong-willed…and maybe I am. However, that strong-will was not managed properly as a child…so…it manifested in ways that I don’t wish to see in my kids!
So, without further ado, here is part two (that rhymes…;)
Choices, Choices, Choices
Strong-willed kids like choices. It makes them feel like they have a bit more control over what happens to them. Sometimes these can be choices between 2 good things, or they can be a choice between a not-so-good thing (a consequence for not doing as they are told) and a better plan of action. This puts the responsibility of choice on their shoulders.
One choice for my son this past year was in his Language Arts program. He helped me choose the program he’d like to complete and he agreed to not complain about the program. I still had some struggles throughout the year and that’s when I’d remind him of his part of the ‘deal’. I also realized those areas where I got the most resistance were on the poetry units, which he absolutely hated. And I can understand that. He didn’t mind reading the poems as much as he disliked analyzing them. There was virtually no resistance on the other parts of the program, so we made some adjustments for the poetry units and things went smoothly again.
There are also the choices where one choice is much less desirable than the one you want them to choose. Often this kind of choice in our family sounds something like this, “You can finish your work now or you can finish after dinner while the rest of the family watches a movie (or plays a game, or goes for ice cream…)”. This method works very well when I want my son or daughter to get a job done. They feel they have some ‘power’ because they are choosing when they will finish their work.
When strong-willed kids feel they have ‘control’ of their life choices, they tend to become more agreeable. And, in most cases, they will make the best choice for themselves.
Strong-willed kids need the extra one-on-one time with a parent. This is time when trust grows between parent and child. I find that when my husband has had a ‘man-to-man’ talk with my son, life is smoother for all of us. This time fosters healthy relationships and helps the kids know they are heard and cared for.
These one-on-one times are NOT for lectures. **Honestly, I don’t believe there ever is a good time for lectures – lecturing is not a good tool to use in parenting. It does much more harm than good.** One-on-one times are for building relationship, sharing life and enjoying each other.
What About Defiance and Disrespect?
There are some things that are absolutely not tolerated in our family. And my kids know it. They understand that these things will be met with swift and firm discipline. Marcus and I do not permit defiance or disrespect from our kids.
With the strong-willed kids, we use things that will make them very unhappy as disciplinary measures. For example, right now, they both LOVE Minecraft. So, when disciplinary measures need to be taken, we remove the privilege of playing the game. This hits them where it ‘hurts’, so to speak. However, I use this tactic only when necessary and I always provide a way for them to ‘earn it back’. If I take it away and keep it away for an extended amount of time, that item or privilege will lose influence. Strong-willed kids will want to save face and pretend to not be bothered by losing the item or a privilege if they aren’t given a second chance (or third, or fourth, or…).
Bring It Back to Scripture
I am definitely a parent who uses scripture in her teaching and admonishing – but I use scripture more often for encouragement and building up. I intend to discuss this further in a future post. Scripture has been great for helping me manage my strong-willed children. I use it often and I always bring it back to Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith – and our children’s faith. I have explained to all of my kids that if they refuse to obey me, their godly parent, then it will be much harder for them to obey their Heavenly Father.
Scripture is truth and I believe it is so important to speak truth over my kids. What they hear is what they will believe. What do you want your kids to believe about themselves?
Being strong-willed is not bad. We really need to eradicate the idea that it is. It ‘looks’ bad or turns sour because it hasn’t been handled properly.
A strong-will is never to be broken or quenched. God made my son and daughter strong-willed for a reason – for His purpose. I don’t know what God will be asking them to do, but it is my job to help my kids develop the gifts that God has given to them, even if it is difficult for me! And honestly, I feel a lot more comfortable with managing a strong-will than compliance. I might explain that point better in another post.
One of the absolute best books I have read on raising a strong-willed child is by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, You Can’t Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded. (Not an affiliate link)
Do you have an angry child? I used to. My next topic will be in regards to dealing with an angry child – yeah, I’m talking red-faced, red-bodied, fists clenched, feet-stomping, throw-myself-on-the-floor, bang-my-head, screaming MAD!
Until next post…
I am also doing some homeschool specific posts – check out the first one here.