“She has you wrapped around her little finger,” my mom warned. “You can’t let her always get what she wants.” At the time, this was news to me. I didn’t think I was a softie. But apparently, my mom saw otherwise. “If you don’t make some changes,” my mom continued, “she’s going to be tougher as a teen.”
As the mother of a strong-willed child, you have the power to help or hurt your relationship with him or her through your behavior. You’re not trying to change the child, but parent the strong-willed child well. Even if your child only has a few strong-willed tendencies, knowing more about what that child needs, and what you can do, will help. It’s definitely helped me and my relationship with my daughter. Here are 6 qualities a mom needs to parent a strong-willed child well.
1. Possesses an Equal or Greater Strength of Will
Lately, my tween has said “no” a lot. “Yes, you will go back down the street and pick up the dog’s poo,” I told her this morning. She crossed her arms. “It’s disgusting.” I told her it didn’t matter. She responded by heading to her room and I followed. I didn’t want to pursue this argument, but it was the right thing. Eventually, my will won out and my daughter headed out the door with a bag.
In her book, Have the Guts to Do It Right, psychologist Sheri Moskowitz Noga says, “If you are an easygoing person with a defiant or challenging child, you need to build your strength of will so you can discipline them effectively…[W]hen you’d rather give in…don’t.” Keep yourself calm but stay firm.
2. Follows Through on Discipline
Sometimes I lose track of the punishment and forget to stick to it. Other times, my kid turns super sweet, and I soften. But empty threats don’t curb bad behavior and I’ve learned through the years that I need to follow through, especially with my sometimes strong-willed child.
Noga puts it this way: “If you chronically give in to a strong-willed child or spoil your child by always caving in to their requests, you are creating an individual who won’t know how to cope with adult life.” Coping skills are important for self-esteem and success as kids grow.
3. Doesn’t Give in to Her Own Tiredness
What mom hasn’t felt too tired at the end of the day to go face-to-face with a strong-willed child? “I want to read one chapter. Please,” my daughter said. We’d gotten home late from her game, and she had to get up early in the morning for camp. “Sorry,” I said, craving a spot on the couch and time to read my book. “Not tonight.” I left the room and stood outside her door. As expected, I heard her flashlight click on. I returned to her room and held out my palm.
“A child with a strong will needs a parent with enough authority and commitment to help them learn about consequences and self-control,” Noga writes. When you don’t give in to your tiredness, your child learns you mean business.
4. Respects Herself and Expects Her Children to Do the Same
The mom of a strong-willed child needs to expect respect. When my child closed the door on me as I stood in the hall talking to her, I opened it back up. Even though she was kidding around, I didn’t like it and told her so. If kids think it’s OK, they’ll push the envelope to see what else they can get away with.
You are the one with the authority and power, not your child. It’s important for your strong-willed child to know her place.
You are the one with the authority and power, not your child.
5. Rises to the Challenge of Being the Parent Her Child Needs
“Mom, I won’t do it again! Please!” the girl cried, clawing at her mom’s shirt. “I’m sorry,” her mom said to me, “but Nelly can’t come over to play today. She lost that privilege.” With two other kids in a stroller, it might’ve been easier for her to send Nelly to my house for the afternoon, but this tough mom rose to the challenge and didn’t give in to her daughter’s will.
As Noga says, “It takes energy, persistence, and devotion” to parent a strong-willed child well.
6. Plays the Long Game and Looks at the Big Picture
Right now, you have a child with a strong will who works hard to get what he wants battling you at every turn. But you need to look ahead. In 10 years, he’ll be bigger and stronger. He needs to learn self-control now.
A strong will is not a bad thing. It may be tough for you now, but if you can teach your strong-willed child the skills he needs to harness his will, he’ll be able to put it to good use in the future when he goes after the college or job he wants or when he leads others in changing the world.
Work on these qualities one at a time. Don’t worry if you don’t have all these traits at once. They’re tough and take time and practice. Just knowing these things can help you be more consistent with your kids, especially when one of them digs her heels in.
Parenting a strong-willed child isn’t easy. Get more support with the iMOM Podcast in the episode, “So You Have a Strong Willed Child.” Subscribe to get new episodes every Monday.
How are you holding up with your strong-willed child?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?