How To Discipline A Strong Willed Child?

Having a strong-willed child has its positives and negatives. A child who is strong-willed in nature may have more confidence, intelligence, individuality and perseverance than his or her peers.

These are traits we admire in adults. However, when kids are still kids they need to be parented properly and follow rules put in place to keep them safe and healthy.

How To Discipline A Strong Willed Child?

Strong-willed children can make parenting really difficult and tiresome, but don’t worry, we have a few tricks lined up to help you with the long and crazy road of parenting a strong-willed kid. First, lets learn about the signs your son or daughter is strong-willed. 

Signs You Have A Strong-Willed Child

  • Strong emotional outbursts 
  • Always demanding to know “why”
  • Arguing and stubbornness
  • Bossiness
  • Refusing to follow rules
  • Impatience
  • Coming up with their own rules and schedules
  • Moving at their own pace
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Not listening 

It’s important to consider that while your child may just be naturally strong-willed, very bad behaviour and defiance can sometimes have a root cause.

Make sure to think about whether there could be any causes of your child’s behavior and always watch out for sudden extreme behavioral changes such as being withdrawn or having intense outbursts. 

Reasons Your Child May Be Acting Out 

  • Peer influence – other children that your child may be in contact with could be influencing their behavior.  
  • Bullying – make sure that your child’s school life is not impacting them negatively. Bullying can lead to emotional outbursts and defiance at home.
  • Past experiences – has your child gone through any negative experience in the past that may be influencing their current behavior?
  • Divorce, separation, and other changes to the family – changes to family dynamics can cause some children to act out.
  • Problems with siblings or other close family members – are you giving one child more attention? Do your children get along well? This may be the cause of some behavior issues.
  • Puberty changes and body issues – if you have an older strong-willed child, it’s important to keep in mind that issues with appearance, weight, and hormonal changes can all contribute to behavioral problems. 
  • Drug or alcohol abuse – again, for older children, consider whether there may be any drug or alcohol problems, and whether their specific peer group could be influencing them. Similarly, children may witness a friend or relative under the influence of drugs or alcohol which could cause behavioral issues.

As well as social contributors, sometimes defiant behavior could point to a deeper medical issue.

Normally, strong-willed children are perfectly fine and just need to have their boundaries established, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for underlying problems, especially if your child’s behavior is particularly worrisome.

Certain disorders can cause brain and hormone imbalances, which can negatively impact a child’s behavior in a variety of ways.

Medical Reasons For Bad Behavior

  • Behavior Disorders (eg. ADHD) 
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Mood Disorders (eg. Depression)
  • Learning Disabilities (eg. Dyslexia)
  • Developmental Disorders (eg. Autism)

If you can confirm that your child’s behavior is solely down to their strong-willed nature, we have a few parenting tips and tricks to help you navigate setting down healthier boundaries and making sure that your child can follow rules and expectations.

Adequate discipline is mandatory for helping your child to grow into a responsible adult.

Stay Calm

It’s very important to stay calm and not escalate the situation when disciplining your strong-willed child. Eventually, your child will learn to stay calm too. 

Prioritize Your Relationship

Focus on maintaining a strong bond with your child. This will make discipline more effective and prevent worse behavior problems in the future.

Give Choices

Give your child the chance to make the right choice so that they can feel responsible and valued. For example, asking your child if they would like to help you wash up after dinner gives them a choice and makes them feel like a valued and useful family member.

Foster Good Communication 

Creating great communication skills is the best way to discipline a strong-willed child. Discuss your expectations of the child and explain why you have them.

Get down to their level so you’re not towering above them, look them in the eyes, and use expressive body language to communicate your feelings.

Give Clear Expectations

Make healthy rules and boundaries with strict, unwavering consequences for breaking them. It should then come as no surprise when a child is disciplined for bad behavior. 

Empathize With Your Child 

Make sure your child feels that you are listening to them and understand their feelings. If they feel empathized with, it’s more likely that they will cooperate with rules and boundaries. 

Establish ​Routines

Children absolutely need routines. Your family’s routine may look different to others, but as long as you have a set bedtime and wake up time, a get dressed and ready morning routine, play time, meal times and bedtime, your child should thrive.

Children without routines end up badly behaved, unhappy and disorganized in later life. 

Give Them Tasks

Giving a child tasks to do around the house will help foster a sense of responsibility, and will get them used to working for what they have.

You can consider rewarding tasks with a small amount of money or a day out once in a while to give successful praise for a job well done. 

Incorporate Calming Strategies

It can be very useful to practice calming strategies with your strong-willed child such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or simply sitting quietly and reading a book.

This can teach your child important self-soothing techniques which will serve them for the rest of their life.

Create Real Consequences

Using effective consequences such as time-outs, grounding, taking away toys, and canceling plans really help to drive home the fact that bad behavior will not be tolerated.

Children will begin to understand that if they modify their behavior, they can avoid these unpleasant consequences.

You may feel like you’re being tough on your child, but they need to learn that actions have consequences for their own good.

Don’t Use Empty Threats

Empty threats with an extreme nature such as “I’m taking your games console away and you’re never getting it back!” or “you’re grounded until high school!” are useless because it is highly unlikely that you will follow through with them, and this therefore teaches the child that your threats are not really going to happen.

Even if you do follow through with extreme threats, it is likely that your child will resent you for it and their behavior may worsen in response.

Teach Your Child To Compromise

Power struggles can be avoided by the art of compromise. Teaching your child to meet you in the middle will not only help to manage their behavior now, but will help them to navigate future relationships.

Final Thoughts

Strong-willed children can be both a blessing and a curse. While some of their traits are admirable, it can be extremely frustrating to raise a child who exhibits defiant behavior.

Incorporating some of these methods into your parenting style should help your child to maintain their strong-willed nature, while also adhering to the rules and expectations that will help them grow into healthy, responsible adults.

Joyce Bailey
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