Every child will have their own unique personality. Some will be shy, some outgoing, some quiet and reflective and others are very strong-willed. Raising a strong-willed child can come with its own set of challenges to go with their very headstrong personality. Strong-willed children can often be bossy, stubborn, and argumentative. They like to challenge authority, especially with their parents. While this may be the makeup of a future CEO or successful lawyer, raising a child with this personality can be difficult.

As they are not running their own Fortune 500 company just yet, it’s essential to show them how to channel their strong-willed behaviour. Keep in mind that being strong-willed is not necessarily a bad thing and is a good sign that they are likely to be driven and may have lots of success in their future. More often than not, these types of children will grow to be overachievers with unbreakable determination. This is why it’s important to not take their stubbornness too personally and instead show them how to harness their gift and channel it well.

What Does Your Child Want Power Over?

When parenting a strong-willed child, you should notice a pattern of what they want power over 

and how their battles are consistently started. By identifying what triggers a power struggle between you and your child, you’ll be able to find a common ground solution. For example, if your child puts up a fight every time you tell them it’s not screen time yet, or when it’s time to return to homeschooling after a lunch break. When they put up a fight, consider giving them an option. Let them decide if they’d rather get their screen time now or after dinner, or whether they’d prefer 15 minutes longer for homeschool lunch and finish 15 minutes later at the end of the day. Having a choice makes them feel as though they have some control and is more likely put their instinct to argue at bay. This allows them to keep their strong-willed behaviours without taking away the power you have as their parent. Alternately it may be helpful to explain to them how the afternoon will work so that they (and you can help) can manage their expectations.

They Deserve Empathy and Respect

When your child defies every decision you make, it’s not easy. This behaviour can lead to temper tantrums on both ends, which isn’t helping the situation. As a parent, be sure to empathise with your child and understand they’re experiencing the same emotions that you do. Instead of giving into the battle and fighting for the power, try to come to a better understanding. Do this by stepping down to their level, literally, get on your knees and come eye-to-eye with them. Let them know that you acknowledge their emotions and validate them through an understanding. 

Show them respect by not talking down to them and speak to them how you yourself expect to be spoken to. Instead of engaging in a battle or power struggle, you’re more likely to be able to have a real conversation with your child where they can express their emotions, wants, and desires. 

Have Routines and Rules

Another great way to avoid a power struggle with your strong-willed child is by creating a routine and set of rules to follow. While this may sound like fuel to the fire, routines and rules can actually be a way to avoid bossing them around. 

As an example I know of a man who took his son to a soccer match. The referee didn’t turn up to the start of the game, so the other parents asked him to be the referee. He’d never done this before, so missed the offsides, illegal tackles and other infringements of the rules. The kids got anxious, argued with each other, him as the referee, and a brawl even broke out! At half time the referee arrived, the kids all played within the rules and boundaries of the game and actually had much more fun in the second half. Rules and boundaries set the tone for safe and fun interactions!

If you set the rules, then you must follow them as well. If you say no technology at the dinner table, then you can’t take your phone out either. Make sure they follow the rules by saying statements like, “If you start your video game now, it needs to be finished by bedtime at 7:30.” This way, they still have control and power while also abiding by the house rules.