The moment she came out and cleared her strong lungs with her loud, echoing screams, I knew that I’d birthed a leader aka a strong-willed child. She was an unexpected blessing in my life and even her conception gave me an idea of the type of child she would be (she made it through protection). Even though I had hints of her personality from the time she was conceived, nothing prepared me for the child I had created.
Opinionated. Smart. Quick-witted. Strong memory. Confident. Aggressive. Sensitive. Stubborn. A leader.
Parenting a child with these characteristics is not for the weak or faint of heart. It’s not for those who aren’t ready to work on themselves so they have mastered quick tongues, impatient tempers and undisciplined emotions. I would give the typical signs of the strong-willed child but us who have them don’t even question it at all. But how do we parent them so they are able to flourish into the beautiful and strong leaders they were meant to be? How do we discipline without putting their flare for life out? How do we raise these children without losing our sanity?
It’s not easy but here are 3 tips to help:
This one is incredibly important because oftentimes they don’t think boundaries apply to them but they do. In my case, because we didn’t baby talk mini, she feels welcome in any and all adult conversations since they sound like how we talk to her. Boundary. I’m not so old school in my parenting that I believe that children should be “seen and not heard” but I do believe that a child should know their place–and my child has no place in my adult conversations unless invited. The boundaries that need to be set vary from child to child depending upon which lines they habitually cross that are inappropriate. Mini likes to invite herself over people’s houses. Boundary. She tends to not care for people’s personal space. Boundary. She will sometimes talk back. Boundary.
So how do you set the boundary? This is really an ongoing thing and it depends on the boundary needed. We have a set of house rules that mini sat down with us to help create. In letting her help us, we have her buy-in to the rules. My mom always says to be the loudest voice in her head so we make sure to remind her of appropriate and inappropriate behavior as well as our expectations. We do this even when she hasn’t crossed the line as a reminder so she always heard us. Consistently enforcing the rules and boundaries set is incredibly important and necessary for success. Sometimes it’s hard because you don’t feel like riding them all the time but if they learn they can get away with things, they’ll consistently try.
2. Reward positive behavior, ignore the negative
There are days that I’m positive that mini does things to get s rise out of me. Kids are no different than most others, if a response is given, there’s a higher chance they’ll repeat the behavior. But if there’s no response? Well then what’s the point of doing what they’re doing? None.
Punishment typically doesn’t work with mini. After going through a really hard time figuring out how to get her to just act like she had the sense God had given her, I decided to dig up some of my old psychology principles. I developed a rewards-based system where she earned faux money depending upon her behavior. Once she earned a certain amount, she was able to buy something from the treasure box. This wasn’t limited to her behavior at home–it extended to school as well. I would follow up with her teachers on he behavior we were focused on and she would be rewarded if necessary.
There have been so many days where I’ve questioned my sanity and my ability as a mother because of whatever I was dealing with with mini and even abc now but I had to learn that this is part of the process. None of us have received handbooks with our children. There is no guide on raising them. Grant both you and your child some additional cushion for learning. It’s hard. Parenting a child that is strong is difficult. You don’t want to kill their spirit but you also want your sanity and that’s hard line to balance on. Be patient. There are bad days and really great days too. But just remember to breathe, smile, and set the example for your child.
Do you have strong-willed children or were you one? What advice do you have in parenting the strong-willed child?