How to Parent a Strong-Willed Child
My wife and I are blessed with two strong-willed children. I don’t say blessed lightly or sarcastically. While parenting strong-willed kids is challenging (Parenting, in general, is challenging, am I right?), I’m excited for what the future holds.
So, what makes a child strong-willed anyway?
Don’t all kids strive for independence and push boundaries? Don’t all kids test how far they can push their parents to get what they want? Yes, this is a normal part of childhood. All kids test boundaries to see how far they can go. It’s how they discover safety and security. Strong-willed kids just exhibit these traits more consistently. This doesn’t mean they are “bad kids.” They’re just determined to do things their way.
Strong-willed kids are passionate and courageous. They’re natural-born leaders. They desire to learn on their own terms, questioning what they’re told. They test limits, want to be in charge, prize independence, and live life with the gas pedal to the floor.
As parents of strong-willed children, we have to balance parenting without breaking their will. I want my children to be successful, independent adults who care about and positively influence others. My job is to help prepare them for that future and to give them the environment to grow into who they’re meant to be.
Here are 5 ways to strengthen your relationship with your strong-willed child:
1. Help them learn through experience.
Strong-willed kids want to learn on their own terms, not just from our experiences. They want to experience it for themselves. Let your child explore what they like. Let them push beyond what they think they can do. Encourage them along the way. With two strong-willed kids, I’ve learned that failure isn’t the end. It’s just a stepping stone to understanding what works.
2. Offer explanations as to why.
My daughter’s teacher looked at us the other day and said, “I’ve realized I can’t just tell your daughter not to go beyond the playground fence. I have to tell her the fence is there to keep her from getting hit by a car.” Saying “Because I said so” doesn’t suffice for a strong-willed child. They want answers and reasons. Knowing this, you can offer an explanation before they ever ask why. Slowing down and explaining the why behind decisions can help you avoid power struggles.
3. Stick to your word.
It’s crucial to do what you say you’ll do. My son may forget much of what we tell him, but he never forgets what we say we’ll do. To be honest, we’ve become wise with our choice of words. We don’t offer too many specifics because we aren’t the type of people who stick to specifics. We are more free-spirited when it comes to plans. He’s not. He wants the details, and he will hold you to those details. And if I don’t do what I said I would do, he’s crushed. To help your strong-willed child, be sure to follow through on what you say. If something derails your plans, explain what happened and how you can handle it together.
4. Offer choices.
Remember, strong-willed kids desire to be in control. This means when we want something done, and we only offer one choice, they’ll push back. It’s their nature. They aren’t necessarily being defiant. So, the best thing to do is present two choices. If cleaning their room feels like a power struggle, present some options. You can clean your room now, or you can play for 30 minutes and then clean your room. Either way, the room must be cleaned. They can choose the timeframe. When possible, offer your child choices so they have a say in the decision-making process.
5. Listen to them.
Strong-willed kids have desires, thoughts, and knowledge they want to share. You, as the parent, may well know best, but they have opinions and beliefs they feel strongly about. Ask your child for their input. Get their views on a family decision. Including their ideas and opinions in family discussions makes them feel valued and heard.
Parenting a strong-willed child may require constant adjustment. Take the time to learn about your child’s needs. You have the opportunity to help your strong-willed child grow into the natural-born leader that they are.
Other helpful blogs:
I Feel Like I’m In A Constant Power Struggle With My Child!
6 Ways Your Child Will Know You Love Them
My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy: 30 Tips to Stay Sane
How To Identify Your Child’s Strengths
Reasons Why Your Spouse Won’t Listen to You
We have all seen the sitcom where one spouse is talking, and the other one seems zoned out. And maybe you laugh as your friend rolls their eyes while making a talking motion with their hand as their spouse repeats that “same old story.” However, it’s not so funny when someone does it to you. Perhaps you’ve tried to engage your spouse in conversation. But now you are at your wit’s end because you just can’t figure out why your spouse won’t listen to you.
When someone (especially your mate) won’t listen to you, you may feel unloved, disrespected, and confused. I don’t know you or your situation, but thinking about these things may give you insight into what’s going on.
Here are some reasons why your spouse may not be listening.
Past conversations have been less than fun.
We have to be aware of our tone and nonverbal communication with our spouse. Are you curt or dismissive in your tone? Does your nonverbal communication say that you don’t want to hear what they say? Do you have a habit of cutting them off when speaking? Do you tend to monopolize conversations? These things can impact the level of communication between the two of you.
It can be hard to listen if you feel lectured.
Communication is a two-way street. Being open to hearing an opinion that varies from yours can make the conversation richer. However, if you only want your spouse to agree with you, it can make them feel unnecessary in the conversation. Lecturing creates an atmosphere that gives one partner the power of knowledge while minimizing the other’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions. And sometimes people don’t listen or engage because they want to avoid conflict.
The conversation started at the wrong time. (Your spouse may not be tuning out on purpose).
Before beginning a conversation, ask your spouse, “Is this a good time?” In past discussions, you may have chosen to talk when your spouse was distracted. Sometimes your spouse has so much going on that they just can’t keep up with all the information coming at them.
Yes, you need to communicate. It’s also respectful to ask if this is the right time for the conversation. The key is to get your message to be heard and understood by your spouse. Finding the right time enhances the chance. (And writing friendly reminders down can’t hurt!)
Complaining takes over conversations.
We all have bad days and bad interactions. It’s normal to share those things with your spouse. But frequently complaining can be a problem. If your spouse has offered ways to alleviate complaints to no avail, continuing to listen can be challenging. A friend shared with me that she complained about her job and boss excessively. Her spouse eventually said, “I’m tired of hearing you complain. If you aren’t going to do something to change the situation, I am unwilling to listen about that subject anymore.” I don’t think that my friend was aware of how much she seemed to complain.
The conversation revolves around one person.
Your spouse cares about you and what’s important to you. But only talking about yourself can make your spouse feel that you don’t care about them and what’s going on in their life. Your discussion should be reciprocal.
Many of us are guilty of being so focused on ourselves that we exclude those we love. It’s not easy to accept that we help foster an unhealthy environment for communication. Once you recognize this, you can take steps to reinvigorate the way you communicate. Acknowledge any mistakes, and be mindful of bad communication habits you might have.
But there’s one more BIG reason your spouse may not be listening to you.
It may not be about you at all.
It could be any number of things. Your spouse might have a short attention span, OR they may not care. They may not like what you have to say, or they’re thinking about what they’re going to say while you’re talking. Your spouse may even have a hearing problem. And it’s possible they have other issues they need to work through, either alone or with a counselor.
Author Elizabeth Bourgeret says, “Communication is the lifeline of any relationship.” When each spouse seeks to create open and mutual communication, the relationship is strengthened going forward.
Other helpful blogs:
- How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse
- How to Find a Good Marriage Counselor
- What to Do When You Feel Disrespected in Marriage
- 4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***