Most parents of strong-willed children find them very challenging.
Parents have conflicting desires between wanting easy-going children, so they will do what they are told, and at the same time, strong-willed kids, so they will stand up for themselves and not be swayed by negative influences. Since this duo personality doesn’t exist, it’s best to first learn how strong-willed children think and how your language could be triggering more power struggles than necessary.
Strong-willed children respond best to director parents who state expectations clearly and with a strong and doubt-free loving voice. Keep this same demeanor even if you aren’t sure what to say in the moment by responding, “I need to think more, and then I will give you my answer.” Then stop!
Here are some strong-willed beliefs and attitudes that may be at the core of your children’s dominant actions. You may see yourself, as well.
- I deserve to be treated fairly and justly.
- I believe that my thoughts and feelings are as important as yours.
- I may need to push loudly to be heard because I fear that my needs will be ignored.
- I will insist on having power over my life.
- I may not be comfortable being gentle or giving, for these attitudes seem “soft” or ‘weak” to me.
- The more I feel rejected, betrayed, or in pain, the more I put up my guard.
- I may make it hard for you to show me warmth and love because I may not respond in kind (even though I need your love and feel love myself).
- Just because you are my parent, that doesn’t mean you are right or that you can treat me disrespectfully.
- My tendency is to be more interested in getting what I want before you get what you want.
- I respond well to honesty, straightforwardness, and trust.
- I do not respond well to threats, use of force, or any other method of control. I will probably stand up for myself by rebelling against you.
- I may have a hard time asking for support or help because I’m afraid I’ll lose my autonomy.
- I am happiest when you allow me to be independent.
- I may be very territorial about my things. I don’t want anyone to touch them. This helps me feel safe.
- I may be stubborn, impassive, and quietly menacing.
- When I lose my temper, the explosion comes suddenly, violently and then it is gone.
To win cooperation from strong-willed children, focus on not being adversarial, pleading, or fearful of resistance. These types of responses feel disrespectful or weak, which diminish your authority and often open the door to power struggles. Avoid these common responses.
- Answering your kid’s “why?” when they already know the answer. You’ll end up defending yourself and trying to convince them to change their resistance. You don’t need their agreement in order to comply. Asking with “Will you please,” when it isn’t a choice.
- Stating your request from your needs with “I want you to…” and “I need you to.”
- Adding on “Okay” at the end of your directions to try and get their approval.
- Giving a “consequence” that feels like a punishment to “teach your kids a lesson.”
- Counting 1…2….3 as a means to scare your children into doing what you want them to do. Most parents don’t know what they will do if they get past 3!
- Shaming your children with statements such as, “How many times do I have to tell you?” “Why did you do that?” “You should have known better,” “You’re a bad boy or girl.”
- Giving a threat, “If you don’t do (what I want), then (something bad) will happen.”
- Using exaggerations: “never, always, everybody, nobody, every time, all the time.”
- Commanding with, “You should, you’d better, you ought to, you can’t, you will.”
- Talking too much and making your directions longer, rather than shorter.
- Assuming your kids should act like adults or blaming them with thinking:
- I shouldn’t have to say it more than once.
- They should know better.
- I already told her how to (clean her room, do his laundry, dust, etc.)
- I am so tired of repeating myself.
Both strong-willed parents and conflict-avoiding parents have challenges learning how to respond effectively. Begin by eliminating a few of your problem phrases, such as saying, “Okay?” Just one small change in you will greatly increase your influence and result in many big changes in your kids.
©2015 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com × 650.679.8138. .