No matter what age your children are or what their personalities are like, being a parent is not easy. We can all agree the days are often long and we could certainly use a nap, especially during the first few years of being a parent. However, parents of strong-willed children know that raising a strong-willed child comes with it’s own unique set of challenges.
You may be wondering what defines a strong-willed child and whether your child fits the definition. Parents of a strong-willed child may find that when everyone else’s children are sleeping through the night by their 1st birthday, their child is still waking up frequently at 2 years. While other children might sit peacefully in the shopping cart at the store, their strong-willed child is still throwing temper tantrums at 4 years. Although these behaviors could describe any child on a bad day, strong-willed children are frequently outspoken, defiant, and always leaders instead of followers.
I’ve got a strong-willed child myself and I’d like to share with you a book that helped me a lot, Parenting the strong willed child by Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long.
How do you know if your child is strong-willed?
Ask yourself these questions:
- When you ask your child to do something, do they tend to do the opposite?
- Do they want to learn most tasks by themselves instead of being taught by someone else?
- Do they frequently ask why and challenge you when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do?
- Is your child a natural born leader?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, you might be the parent of a strong-willed child.
A strong-willed child is one who, even at a very young age, seems to have a mind of their own. The parents of strong-willed children often describe them as stubborn and defiant. Children with a strong will often will not do what you say the first time and sometimes even the second or third time as well.
Strong willed children will always push boundaries as long as they are able to. They often thrive in structured situations because even though they love to bend the rules as far as they can, they also need to know they’re being held accountable for their actions and that there’s a limit to the rules they can bend or break. Although there may be a part of them that want to please their parents, they do not want to please their parents at the expense of giving up control.
They are natural born leaders, brave, and willing to take on any challenge that comes their way. The reality of parenting a strong-willed child is that it can be incredibly frustrating and exhausting, especially when they’re little, but their strong will is a positive trait that will get them far in life. You may not see it yet, but that fire inside of them will greatly benefit them down the road.
The problems a parent of a strong-willed child can face
One question many parents ask is aren’t all children defiant at some point? Yes, it’s true that many children, especially in the toddler phase, are unlikely to listen the first time. It’s not uncommon for a child in their “terrible twos” to throw a tantrum in the store or for a “threenager” to challenge their parents when asked to complete a simple task. However, with a strong-willed child, it’s not just a phase, and it can feel like a daily (or even sometimes hourly) battle between the parents and the child. Getting them to do even the most simple tasks can feel like the end of the world because strong willed children will not easily agree to do anything they don’t want to do.
If you’re currently in the trenches of parenting a strong willed child, I’m right there with you. As the mom of an incredibly strong-willed 3 year old, I’ve faced many obstacles trying to be the best parent I can be. One of my biggest struggles has been learning how to communicate with my daughter and understanding why she behaves the way she does. When simply asking her to pick up her toys ends with her throwing a temper tantrum, parenting can be not only physically exhausting, but also emotionally exhausting.
When you don’t know how to deal with your spirited child, it can sometimes make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing as a parent. Know you’re not alone and that no parent is perfect. If I hadn’t learned some of the tricks I’ve learned along the way, I would still be trying to change her behavior on my own terms instead of trying techniques that work best with strong-willed children.
On the days when my daughter has already made up her mind about everything and won’t let me tell her any different, I envision her becoming the CEO of a company one day or President of the United States. I see her accomplishing so much and never letting anyone push her around. But right now, as we’re in these early years, I’m often looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m grateful for the resources I’ve found that have helped me find that light.
The best book for parents of a strong-willed child
As an avid reader, researcher, and teacher, I’m always trying to learn new things, especially when it comes to being a parent. To say that being a parent is a huge responsibility would be an understatement, but most of us become parents without any support or training. Since children certainly don’t come with an instruction manual, parenting books can be a great resource to help you navigate the many challenges of parenthood.
Parenting the strong willed child by Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long is a book that has helped me navigate these early years of parenting a strong-willed child. This book is designed to be a 5 week program and is filled with practical tips, anecdotes, and examples to aid you in the process. Parenting the strong willed child helps you understand your child’s behavior, how to deal with it, and also teaches you how to solve common behavior problems many parents face. The book a great resource for anyone who wants to understand their strong-willed child and deal with their behavior in a more positive way.
What I loved about Parenting the Strong Willed Child
Even though I usually want to know the “why” behind an action or behavior, when it comes to being the mom of a strong-willed child, I needed practical tips, not just an overview of parenting philosophy or ideals. I recommend this book for any parent of a strong-willed child because the authors give you action steps to take that you can actually start working on today.
Even though the book is written in the form of a 5 week program, with each step you start to see the impact of the changes you’re making. As you’re learning how to parent a strong-willed child, you’ll start to see improvements in your child’s behavior and improvements in your overall mindset around parenting. Being the parent of a stubborn child can start to weigh on you, but this book helps you take steps toward having a more positive relationship with your child.
Although the steps given in the book have been proven to improve your strong willed child’s behavior, it’s not just a magic formula. Since disciplining a strong-willed child can quickly become a power struggle, it’s important to communicate with your child in a way that teaches them to make right choices but doesn’t break their spirit. Parenting the strong willed child will teach you how to deal with your child in a way that will improve their behavior and help you keep your sanity.
I’ve learned so much from this book and have seen the effects it can have on my child’s behavior and my relationship with her. Here are some of the main takeaways from Parenting the strong willed child:
- The first step is understanding your child’s behavior: Many parents of strong-willed children might believe they are simply defiant, that they should know better, and that they should respond to discipline (I know I’ve been stuck in this cycle myself!). But the reality is that there is a reason for the way they act and what they respond to may be different from other children. If you can start to understand why your strong-willed toddler acts the way they do, it will help you be more patient and deal with their behavior in a way that helps build their character without trying to change their personality.
- There are specific parenting techniques that work: So much of parenting is trial and error and trying to find what works for your child. But with a strong-willed child, it can sometimes feel like nothing is working. In this book, the authors share parenting techniques that have been proven to work with many different strong-willed children. Techniques such as using verbal praise, rewarding your child’s positive behavior, and ignoring their negative behavior can be effective when used together in the 5 week program. It will not only improve your child’s behavior, but it helps you develop a more positive relationship between you and your child as well.
- Having a strong foundation of positive parenting is important: Your relationship with your child matters, and having a positive family life is going to have a significant impact on your child’s behavior. Part III of Parenting the Strong Willed Child focuses on how you can make the parenting techniques in the book most effective by building a foundation of positive parenting and developing a strong relationship with your child. Positive parenting is a parenting style where you focus on your child’s positive behaviors instead of the negative. It’s a proactive approach that encourages parents to guide and lead their children, disciplining them in a way that helps improve their self-esteem instead of shaming them. Positive parenting also focuses on building a strong relationship with your child. The techniques in Parenting the Strong Willed Child will not be effective if you don’t have your child’s trust and respect, but the authors share positive and practical ways to help build this kind of relationship with your child.
- The most effective parenting techniques don’t always come naturally: As parents, we often feel that it’s our job to know how to deal with our child at all times. Many things about being a parent may come naturally, but for those of us parenting a strong-willed child, it can be frustrating when you feel completely at a loss. I know there have been many times in my own parenting experience where I simply didn’t know what to do. All of the parenting techniques shared in Parenting the Strong Willed Child are skills you can learn and practice over time. Giving praise to your child, for example, may not come naturally to you, but the authors of this book give you practical tips for how you can practice these skills in order to improve your child’s behavior.
When you’re the parent of a strong-willed child and you feel like you can’t take your child anywhere, it can be incredibly isolating. Even something as simple as a trip to the park or the grocery store can seem like a daunting task when you’re not sure how your child will behave. No matter what your child’s behavior is like, remember you’re doing the best you can.
Whether you’re a first time parent or an expert parent of 5, remember to be kind to yourself and to those around you. Next time you see another parent of a strong-willed child in the store or wrangling their toddler into a car seat, be sure to give them a nod and a smile to show them they’re not alone.
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