Don't worry. You can handle your little hardhead!

How to Handle a Willful Child

by Mario Ramos

Every child has his stubborn moments, but how do you know if you just have a willful child? If you and your child have power struggles all the time, it might be time to change your parenting strategy. Even though it might be frustrating at times, that stubborn nature could turn into a strong sense of leadership if you start guiding it the right way now.

Maybe It's Not Just Him...

Consider your own behavior as a possible factor. While some tots are hard-wired for hardheadedness, others are simply following their parents' examples. Moms that are overly competitive or ambitious -- that is, the ones that need to win at any cost -- send a strong message that stubborn is the way to be. Overindulgent or inconsistent parenting shows the child that to get his way all he needs to do is tough it out. Be aware of the example you're setting for him.

List ten different actions or inactions -- your own, not your little one's -- that could make his willfulness worse. Next, ask yourself whether any of these behaviors are happening often. If so, you are probably part of the problem! Not to worry, though. Being aware of the problem is the first step to changing behavior.

Think about how to reduce or eliminate the behaviors on your list. Many times moms simply react to their children without thinking things through. Note the situations which may cause you to fly off the handle, and when they occur, remember to take a deep breath and think about the most productive way to respond. And remember, don't take your little one's behavior personally; he didn't wake up for the sole reason of frustrating you!

Engaging Your Child

Teach your child about tradeoffs. For example, if your little one stubbornly refuses to share his toys with a friend, tell him that if he doesn't start sharing, his friend won't share either. Going even further, tell him that if they both share, they can both play with all the toys. And isn't playing more fun that way?

Let your little one know exactly what is expected of him in the clearest terms possible. The more you talk, the more fired-up you'll get, which will cause him to dig in his heels even more. Before you know it, you'll be in the midst of another frustrating power struggle. Instead, tell him what you want from him and let him know how he'll be punished if he disobeys. The less talk, the better.

Follow through on those punishments every time! If you don't, your child will never quite know when to take you seriously, which will lead to her pushing the limits even further. Be consistent, and you won't have to nag either.

About the Author

Mario has been acting onstage and on camera for over a decade, beginning in 2002 at university and extending presently to Philadelphia, New York City and even Seoul (South Korea) and Buenos Aires. He is easy to direct and pleasant to work with. Onscreen, Mario comes across as natural and affable, professional and articulate. He currently resides in Boston.

Photo Credits

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