I have been writing and talking to parents , teachers and children for a long time now. One of the topics I have surprisingly not written about here is about strong- willed children… and this too when I have given brith to two spirited kids myself and when this topic has been really close to my heart. One of the reasons is because I struggled with this one inspite all my knowledge of child development and experience.
Read the following to understand my struggle-
” It’s my life , MY LIFE, you can’t make me eat vegetables because I want to live my life my way”, that’s my son when I think he was 5-6 year old
” Mom, why did you give birth to me, you should have let me be where I was” my son’s answer to my making him do what he didn’t want to when he was 7-8 year old.
“I won’t go for the art class because I have fought with my teacher. She is bossy and doesn’t let me draw what I want and wants me to do a scenery with two trees and clouds and hills. I am quitting” my daughter when she was I think 10 years old.
“I want to wear my favourite pyjama or else I am not going”, my crying three year old daughter while getting ready for her big school interview.
Call them difficult, stubborn, tough, strong- willed or spirited my kids made me revisit all my theoretical knowledge and made a lot of it redundant. I learnt to not get into a power struggle with my kids eventually but I won’t lie as I did try hard to break their will sometimes. Fast forward to many years now…. they managed to keep me from breaking their feisty spirit. And am I proud? Yes Very , because they aren’t followers… they lead, they aren’t meek …..they are strong headed, they aren’t “yes sir yes mam variety ” .. .they question everything, they are cooperative but they don’t compromise their values . They both seem to be leaders of their destiny and are intrinsically motivated to do well for themselves and are on the way to become their best versions.
Strong- willed kids aren’t bad, rather are courageous people of integrity who aren’t easily swayed from their own viewpoints. They want to always learn on their own and feel in charge of their lives …irrespective to their petite little, tween or teenage selves. They live life on their own terms and according to their own time table. They are just more prone to power struggles with their parents. It is very challenging to parent a strong willed child no doubt.
My Take :
Please don’t over hype the value we put on obedience as a must for our kids all the time instead let them build their own inner compass of good or bad -right and wrong. Sharing here some tricks and tips I used to parent my two amazing strong-willed kids. See which ones work for you .
- Let your strong- willed be incharge of things. She wants mastery more than anything else. Instead of nagging and ordering her to brush her teeth, tell her to check the list of things she can do herself. Keep guiding for her to remember all that she should do before she goes to bed. DON’T ORDER, DON’T YELL, DON’T EXPECT HER TO DO IT EXACTLY WHEN YOU WANT HER TO.
- Give him choices, don’t push him to obey. If you offer a choice, he feels like the master of his own destiny. JUST BE SMART to only offer choices you can live with and don’t let yourself get resentful by handing away your power.
- Use routines and rules.This way you won’t be the bad guy who is bossing her around.
- Don’t use force , it always creates a push back irrespective to whatever age your child is. Don’t try and win the power struggle as if you do , you might lose connection. Just stop, take a breath, and remind yourself that winning a battle with your child always sets you up to lose and what’s most important is the relationship.
- Alway remember that strong-willed kids like to learn from their own experiences. So unless you’re worried about serious injury, it’s more effective to let them learn through experience, instead of trying to control them.
- Expect the constant testing of your limits …….that’s how she learns. If you know that, it is easier for you to remain calm and that will help in avoiding wear and tear on your relationship and also your nerves.
- Don’t let the connection break , strong willed kids will get into fights with you for both wrong and right reasons. They will see the light and the right way you are showing irrespective to those fights if they feel the connect and they will do it to save their relationship .
- Respect is a big thing for strong-willed children. If you offer it to them, they don’t need to fight to protect their position. If you see her point of view and think it is wrong — for example if she wants to wear the pyjama to a school interview, you can still offer her empathy and meet her half way by telling her she can wear it on her way back home.
- Don’t break promises. Own up when you do, apologise.
- Learning can’t happen in a fight , it shuts off when the adrenaline is pumping. So instead of trying to correct at those emotional moments, take a deep breath, connect and touch her tenderly or give a hug. Wait for her to cool down to deliver your life lesson.
Strong- Willed Kids aren’t bad, they are originals, they live passionate lives, they when parented sensitively learn to keep the fire in their belly burning and go ahead to change the world wherever and however they can.
I am lucky to have two fire balls who have grown and flown to find their passions and live life on their own terms.
You are lucky too … if you have strong-willed kids.