How to Parent a Strong-Willed Child

How to Parent a Strong-Willed Child

There are only so many ways that you can reason with a strong-willed, high energy, stubborn toddler. And once you've hit your limit, you AND your little one get frustrated and upset. AKA lots of tears, yelling, and probably some hair pulling.

So how on earth are you supposed to parent a child when he thinks he knows it all, and has a hard time responding to your prompts when he's acting out? OR, in our case, our child just straight up ignores us and refuses to listen when we tell him to stop hitting his sister for the millionth time. My mama voice can only stand so much. If you are dealing with a little one at home who struggles with listening, understanding the consequences of her actions, or accepting your rules/reasoning, here are a few things that might make parenting easier on both of you:


This is possibly one of the most essential things we can do as parents. At a very basic level, consistency in their environment is how children learn-- they take in the stimulus, process it, and repeat it back. I mean who doesn't love when our babes start mimicking our every movement (not so much when they pick up on the whole speech thing). When it comes to our parenting, our children will thrive when they know what to expect, and this is especially true for children with independent personalities. 

Make sure to stay consistent with when it comes to rewards and punishments. I know it can be impossible to follow through on a punishment when you're out at a play date, or made plans to head to the library or a friend's house, or are even at the grocery store, but it is so so important for our kids to realize that we will expect them to be responsible for their actions at all times wherever they are. Don't be embarrassed, and don't shy away from it-- accept that this is the best way to teach your child how to behave appropriately, and the hope is it will get easier as they learn to expect those consequences. The same goes for praise and rewards; when your child is doing a great job sharing, keeping his hands to himself during a play date, or are using an inside voice during a trip to the bank or the doctor's office, they should be able to expect you to reward them with an excited happy mama!


Another thing that will go a long way with kids who like it their way is offering choices. During times when there is normally a power struggle with your kids, try offering them two different choices and letting them decide how they want it to go. Do you find yourself arguing constantly when it comes to quiet time/nap time? Offer them the choice to read or do puzzles during quiet time and let them choose. Are you having a hard time seeing eye to eye when you reach bed time? Offer a couple of choices-- do you want to brush teeth now or after we put on our pjs?

The truth is they don't have to be super appealing things, you just have to let them make the choice and then you follow through with what they decide. You're not saying to them, "It is time for bed. We are brushing our teeth and getting our jammies on. Now." You're allowing them to steer the routine, and even though things aren't changing much, they feel in control of the situation that they normally resist. 


I will admit that this is something that I constantly have to work on. Like every day, multiple times during the day. It is so easy for me to default to, "Because I said so," without giving my kids any reasoning behind my choices or the rules that we set in our home. And I think that it's important for parents to remember that even if our kids don't understand our reasoning fully, they do deserve a little bit more than "just cause".

Not going to be able to head to the park because you have too much work to do at home? Explain that to your littles. Your littles want to stop for some fast food on the way home from school and you're trying to avoid it like the plague? Explain that you have food at home and you are trying to eat a little healthier. There are always reasons for the things that we do, and when we take a couple extra seconds to fill our kids in on why we are saying no or not today, it helps them make the connection that we're not just trying to be the mean mom.


For my son, in particular, connecting with him is essential to his emotional health and overall attitude. When he is acting up the most, all I have to do is think back and I realize that I haven't sat down and played, helped him with his puzzle, or asked him what he's building. My son thrives when I connect with him--play with him, sing or dance with him, just do something together. I find that when I put things ahead of him (laundry, dishes, work), he will act out for the sole purpose of my attention, and if he had it in the first place, he wouldn't be behaving poorly. 

My advice? Involve your kids as much as possible in the things that you're doing during the day. Laundry? Bring them in and help them fill the soap and when things are dry, they can sort/match the socks. Dishes? Have them help with putting away the clean silverware from the dishwasher. You won't always be able to incorporate them into things that need to get done during the day, but when you make it a priority to connect with your kids during your time together and truly be present with them, you will see a huge increase in their good behaviors.

I am by no means an expert on this topic. In fact, I am constantly researching new ways to handle my child who tests my patience, and pushes me to my limits on a daily basis. But hopefully these tips will make the days a little easier, and our relationship with our littles a little sweeter.

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