Do you hear the word “no” a lot? Do you constantly find yourself in a power struggle with a 3-year-old? Hate to break it to ya, Mom, but you just might be the parent of a strong-willed child. But don’t throw in the towel on parenting just yet. Having a strong-willed child isn’t all bad. Sure, the parenting part of it can be challenging, but Dr. Laura Markham of Aha!Parenting.com suggests that strong-willed kids turn into self-motivated teens and adults, which may just put them at the head of the pack when they’re older. But for now, learn the signs of a strong-willed child so you’ll know exactly what -- and who -- you’re up against.
Wants to Be Right...All the Time
You say the sky is blue, but he says it’s gray. No matter how much you tell your tot that the sky is blue, he will not accept the answer. He says it’s gray, so it must be gray. Strong-willed children want to always be right. Regardless of what the issue is at hand, they’re not going to accept that they are wrong. And if you try to convince them they’re wrong, they get angry. Where kids that aren’t strong-willed will typically accept the answer -- they may be disappointed that they’re wrong, but don’t dwell upon it -- a strong-willed child will get downright angry. A temper tantrum may ensue or you might get a block thrown at you in the midst of the “argument.” Strong-willed kids are resolute in their thinking and beliefs, so there’s not much mommy or daddy can say to change their minds.
Struggles With Power
Strong-willed kids like to be in control. They don’t want to be told what to do by mommy, daddy or anybody for that matter. They are natural leaders, and while that may not be such a good thing when they’re little -- after all, you’re trying to get your child to listen to you and behave -- you can always hold out hope that they’ll be the next President of the United States or a CEO of a big company. So if you tell her to please put away her coloring books, she might wait 10 minutes before doing it because she’s going to do it on her terms, not yours, or she might refuse to do it all together. Strong-willed kids like to make and live by their own rules. If you say go left, she’s going right; you tell her to put on boots, she’s putting on flip-flops. Kids who are strong-willed don’t want rules, and if you set them, you can pretty much bet that they’ll be broken.
Does Things Fast
You can pick up on signs that your child is strong-willed long before she's able to talk back to you, throw tantrums or embarrass you at your weekly playgroup with her refusal to share with the other kids. Strong-willed children tend to do things earlier and faster than other children. They might skip crawling and go straight to walking, or heck, they might even go straight to running. And once they start, they don’t typically stop. Strong-willed children have overall fast actions. They eat, walk and talk a million miles a minute, which can be enough to drive mommy to near insanity. But try to think of the future, Mom. He’ll only be a tot for a short while, and once he’s an adult, these traits might actually come in handy.
Even if your strong-willed little one can barely speak in full sentences, he’ll have no problem bossing you around. And the bossiness doesn’t just stop with mom and dad. She may tell other kids what to do during play dates or on the playground, insist that you get her some milk right now or make up her own rules when playing a game with a sibling. Strong-willed kids like to tell others what to do. They want things done a certain way and at a certain time, and they’re not shy about letting others know it.
My Kid is Strong-Willed…Now What?
Raising children is not an easy job, but raising a strong-willed child is even more complicated. You will undoubtedly get frustrated at times, and maybe even downright mad. That’s okay. Learn to work with your determined little one rather than always trying to fight him. Try not to set so many rules, but still make sure there are clear limits for him to follow. ParentsPartner.com suggests rather than blaming your child or making him feel shame for his strong-willed behavior, acknowledge his feelings, focus on his positive traits and offer praise for good behavior. Don’t demand that he clean up his toys right this second. Instead, offer some leeway to get the task done, like suggesting how happy you would be if he would clean up his toys before he goes outside to play.