Parenting The Strong- Willed Child
Morality is doing what's right, no matter what you're told. Obedience is doing what you're told, no matter what's right. - H.L. Mencken
Do you want your child to do what you say, no questions asked?
Are you yearning for the obedient child?
I would urge you that NO, this ISN’T what you want.
You DON’T want a child who always does as they are told. One who blindly acts and follows because the person asking/telling is older/bigger. Making our children act out of FEAR is never a good parenting strategy. I will argue that you want your children to do as you ask because they TRUST you. Because they have learnt that you are thoughtful about what you say yes and no to. Because even though you don’t always say yes to what they want, they know you have their best interests at heart.
So here is PART ONE of my top TEN tips for parenting strong-willed children to help them become self-disciplined, responsible, considerate -- and most important, discerning! They MUST have the ability to figure out who to trust and when it is OK to be influenced by someone else.
1. Learning Through Experience.
Most children have to see/feel/experience consequences for themselves to understand the why. But, getting hit by a car because you didn’t look both ways crossing the street isn’t really doable...so how do you use this strategy? Well, in some cases you can’t. BUT in many cases you can! It truly is the most effective way. And as long as nothing serious can happen, a few bumps, and bruises and extra cleanups, and messes (while in the moment will be frustrating) will be worth it in the long run, especially with your strong-willed children. They will test your limits REPEATEDLY. It's how they learn. And the sooner you embrace this fact, the easier it will be to stay calm, watch them fail, and be there to support them through their bad decisions. Instead of being the one who always says no, you can be the one there to help them determine what the “right” decision is. This will BUILD your relationship rather than tear it down.
2. Mastery/Autonomy is KEY!
It is so important to let our children take charge of as many of their own activities as possible. They MUST learn to do things without being nagged! Try strategies like checklists and reminders instead. Use positive reinforcement for what they ARE doing right with gentle reminders for what they missed. For example, in the morning you can reinforce the habits you want them to learn by saying “what else do you need to do before we leave?” If they look at you blankly, you can list off the short list. “Brushed teeth. Packed lunch. Packed backpack. I can see you have your lunch and back pack ready to go—FANTASTIC! What else needs doing so we can go?” Your child will fight with you less when they feel in control. And bonus, they learn responsibility! The earlier you start this system the better!
You children want choice. Stop barking orders at them. You strong-willed child will immediately get her back up and shut down. Offering choice works when they are toddlers (do you want to wear your blue pants or your purple skirt today?) AND when they are teenagers (please either take the garbage out or unload the dishwasher). BUT be sure you can live with either choice! Also, you can’t get resentful by handing away the power! This is what you need to do to get what you want. Keep the end game in mind!
4. AUTONOMY & Authority Over Their Own Bodies.
Children must learn that they are responsible for the health of their bodies and that they and they alone have control over it. BUT that they must make decisions that keep it safe & healthy! Deciding they don’t want to wear a jacket when you think it is cold outside is their decision. But be clear that their decision has consequences. You will not be driving back to the house to get it on an outing. You might suggest putting the jacket in their back pack/car in case it gets cold later. REMEMBER, don’t play the “told-you-so” game if and when she asks for her jacket later! You are tying to teach them to make their own decisions and they can only make informed ones by learning through experiences so that next time they make a more informed decision.
5. Use Routines & Rules.
Some things are just so in your house. That’s a must. The use of rules allows you not to be the bad guy. “In our house the rule is we wash our hands before eating”. Or, “the schedule is that we turn our lights off at 8pm so we have time for 2 books if we hurry! Or, “the rule is no TV/video games until homework is done.” Staying consistent with these rules/systems is a MUST. Children will ALWAYS test you, check to see if the rules still apply, to see if you will hold true to them. You MUST. You must be consistent, you must apply the rules fairly across the whole house. You must show them that their are expectations for everyone in the house, including you!
PART 2 COMING TOMORROW!