Letting her lead lessons teaches her learning is fun.

How to Teach Strong-Willed Children

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

If you have a child who thinks she’s the boss, you probably know you have a strong-willed child. She seldom does anything she doesn’t want to and really prefers that whatever she does was her idea and not yours. Sound familiar? And you probably wonder if she’s this determined as a preschooler, what you will do to teach her and keep her in line as she gets older. You don’t have an easy job. But you do have options and you can start using them today.

Convince him that learning is his idea. It make take some reverse psychology or some crafty thinking on your part. For example, you get new activity books and spend time looking at them and working some of the activities but you don’t let him try them until he can’t stand watching you have fun a minute longer and begs you to let him play too. He doesn’t have to know he’s learning. To him, it’s just play.

Find something she’s really cares about and seize the moment. For example, she really enjoys puzzles and you take her on a shopping trip where you casually stroll down the puzzle aisle without seeming to see any of them. She asks for a puzzle and you look for options that teach her, such as numbers, shapes, words or letters. You might buy puzzle blanks and then wonder aloud what you will do with them since the blanks don’t have a picture. You can print and glue a picture on the blanks and present them to her as her own, special puzzle that no one else has. Alternatively, if she has a creative building fascination, she can learn geometry, and architecture buy copying buildings with blocks or building a diorama.

Take exciting field trips. Some obvious options include children’s museums, zoos, aquariums, children’s activity centers and libraries. Perhaps less obvious locations include the park to look for insect life, a duck pond to observe how duck families live, the grocery store where you talk about good food choices or your own backyard under the stars where he can learn to see pictures in the sky we know as constellations. Your enthusiasm can spark him. Another option is to let him teach lessons to a younger sibling or you can teach other kids and let him learn by observing and listening, even when you don’t require his participation. Talk about what you see and how things work during the trip or on the way home. Invite him to tell Grandma or a neighbor about his day. You will be surprised at how much he learned.


  • You Can't Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded): Strategies for Bringing Out the Best in Your Strong-Willed Child; Cynthia Ulrich Tobias

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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