Strong-willed Children; How to Bend Them and NOT Break Them!!

Every child is a blessing and a gift from the universe. And as we all know, every gift shall be accepted as it is. We appreciate and accept everything the nature made for us without questioning if it is good or bad.  We accept that the wind can be warm or cold, the ocean can be peaceful or dangerous, the animals – predators or friends. We are accepting their being as a fact. We are not trying to change it, we don’t even think about changing it.
Children are also gift and part of the nature. They also come in different shapes and with different characters. Some are with quiet temper and obedient nature, while others with indomitable spirit and strong-willed.

I am a happy mother of a very strong-willed and wild child. Untameable would be the right word describing my little lion cub. I adore him for everything he is, but oh my god, at times I believe he would even make Gandhi start yelling.

A while ago I read something that got me thinking. It was something like this: “It is not strange at all that our world today needs more leaders and world changers, since we are giving our best efforts to teach our children that it is good to be obedient. A leader is not obedient. A leader is determined and strong-willed individual that questions every authority.  A leader needs to understand everything and find a new unique way of solving an issue.”

strong-willed child@myquietspot

This made me realize that most of the articles I have read on this subject, a strong-willed or stubborn child, are presenting them as some kind of a trouble or a problem that needs to be treated or solved.

  • “Difficult to discipline and seemingly impossible to motivate, these children present unique, exhausting and often frustrating challenges to those who love them.”
  • This one goes even further: “A strong-willed child is defined as one who is stubborn and always has to get their way. These children often have difficulties associated with disruptive behavior disorders such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Conduct Disorder.”
  • The explanation in the vocabulary says: “A strong-willed person is someone with a powerful will. This can be positive or negative. A child who insists on going to the zoo in the rain is strong-willed in a stubborn way. Someone with deep beliefs is strong-willed in a better way.”

Even the vocabulary explanation seems to be more inclined on defining a strong-will as a bad characteristic if connected with child, although when present in adults it takes a positive connotation. It says someone with deep beliefs is strong-willed in a better way. Maybe the child insisting on going to the zoo in the rain has deep beliefs that the rain can’t make much difference.

Why do we always take the easier way and assume that they are just being stubborn and want to get it their way, instead of trying to understand what is their reason for the matter?

It is true that it is quite difficult to parent a strong-willed child, and at times it feels like as if you are pushing a big rock against the hill. It takes enormous amount of patience, that’s for sure. Still, I am not and will never stand with the ones defining them as a problem or as a disruptive behavior, just because they are so determined on making it their way.

A strong-willed child grows up to be a terrific teen. They will have their opinions even then, and they won’t be manipulated by their friends. Their focus will remain on achieving their goals, and most probably they will attract a tribe to follow them. No distraction will make them sway away from their goals. This type of tiny persons will never grow to be obedient to a more dominant friend; most likely they will be the dominant one. Sounds nice, right! Who doesn’t want a teenager like this?

strong-willed child@myquietspot

(Former US president Franklin Roosevelt was a strong-willed child).

Furthermore, their growth will transform them in a great leader that will be making changes in this world. Check the personal characteristics of the most famous world leaders, innovators, world-class athletes: persistent, authoritative, bold, valiant, resourceful… Sounds a lot like stubborn, demanding, challenging, rebellious, don’t you think?

When you say that the zebra has black and white stripes, and your little warrior says that it has white and black stripes, you do realize that it is still the same, right?  It is white and black and he/she would not agree with anything else!

Do you find this wrong? Do you think that his/hers will need to be broken? Breaking a child will leaves them open to the influence of others who often will not serve their interests.

When I was 10 years old, I have forgotten to finish my homework which was to write an essay about “My town during winter time”. It would have passed unnoticed but unfortunately the teacher asked me to read my homework in front of the whole class. I stood there and “read” the essay on the subject from a notebook with blank pages. My red face and the shivering voice betrayed me, so the teacher came closer to see what the cause was for me acting strange. When she saw the empty pages, she presented them to the class and asked me why I haven’t told her that I didn’t finish my homework. My answer was that I’ve finished it. When she gave me a time-out in the corner of the classroom until I confess that I was wrong, I sat there till the end of the day. (Yeah, I guess I was a strong-willed child). At the end of the day, when my teacher told my father what have happened that day, I was so afraid that he will be disappointed at me. Instead, my father caressed my hair, gave me a hug and said: “You were wrong on not having it written, just that. On all the other aspects you were right, you did your homework. Your teacher said that it was actually the best essay she has ever heard! I am so proud of you!”

Needless to say, I believe this would be the right way to parent and teach your strong-willed child.

Instead of believing that they are just being stubborn, try to communicate with them and understand their way of thinking. A strong-willed child has a unique way of thinking, often their reasons for their acting will surprise you and you will find out that they were right. Even if you still don’t agree with them, let them try to convince you. If they do give you several good reasons for their wish, make a compromise.

Respect their opinions and treat them as adults. They want to be heard and be treated with respect. If you don’t show them respect, how can you expect them to be respectful. Remember: kids will continue to communicate until they feel heard.

Impose your authority by leading them with gentleness, not by punishment. Set some boundaries. You have to decide what is permissible and what will be not tolerated.

The time-outs and the spanking will teach them that you are the bigger and the stronger one, and that they should be afraid of you, nothing more. They will remain strong-willed and they will have it their way regardless your punishments. The difference will be that you won’t know a thing about it.

Teach them how to deal with anger by giving an example. When they are the storm, you shall be the harbor. Express empathy. Show them that you can see that they are upset and get them to explain why. Teach them to compromise, listen to their reason and then give them yours. Teach them the basics of diplomacy.

Give them few choices, and let them decide. Let them know that they do have control over their decisions. Make them feel that they are in control – they will return the favor. They need you to show confidence in their intelligence.

Let them learn through experience, instead of trying to control them.

Teach them to be independent by letting them do things. Kids who feel in charge of themselves and are independent will have less need to be oppositional. They take responsibility early.

Accept their strong will as a blessing, not a curse.

As parents, we should always have in mind that: “Morality is doing what’s right, no matter what you’re told. Obedience is doing what you’re told, no matter what’s right.” – H.L.Mencken.

Author: Daniela Miovska
My Quiet Spot

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2 comments

  1. Great article! What a more positive way of looking at strong-willed children! I will definitely be thinking of this next time with my little girl. Thank you!

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