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Disciplining a Strong-Willed Child With Love and Confidence

You are raising a mover and a shaker, a dominator, a world changer! Yup. Your strong-willed child is poised to make a huge impact on the world around him. And there’s no one better to train him how to make that impact a positive one… than you! Whether you feel equipped for the task or not, the task is indeed yours. He’s your child. All yours. 24 hours a day… yours! Disciplining a strong-willed child can be a challenge, but you have everything you need.

Let’s talk about how to summon the parenting skills you need for raising a strong willed child!

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Is Disciplining Your Strong Willed Child Something You’re Ready For?

The answer may surprise you.

You may not be ready. You’re likely not ready because someone has given you a false definition of the term strong-willed.

In truth, disciplining a strong-willed child requires that your will outmatch hers.

However, likely not in the way you are thinking.

As I was considering the best way to chat with you about this, I felt like the first thing we need to do is understand a bit about this all-to-commonly-thrown-around term “strong-willed-child.”

What does it really mean for a child to be strong-willed, anyway? It’s kinda hard to know until you’ve parented a laid back kiddo AND a strong-willed child. Then the light bulb goes off and you can plainly SEE the difference.

To learn more about the three most common child temperament types, read here.

For instance, teaching one of my children to sit in a ONE MINUTE timeout at 15 months old, took me 45 minutes. 45 Minutes of putting him back in that chair every time he’d climb out, in order to accomplish one single minute of training. (for my favorite book on how to use time out correctly and effectively, click here)

Fast forward a handful of years and I’m walking through the same scenario with another child. Only this time, the 15-month-old sits in the chair and never even attempts to get down!?

mom and daughter happy sitting back to back because mom understands disciplining a strong willed child

Disciplining a Strong-Willed Child Can Take Time

Ah-Ha! Strong-willed child = 45 minutes to accomplish ONE minute’s worth of training. Laidback child = one minute to accomplish one minute’s worth of training.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

And therein lies the true definition of a strong-willed child. Disciplining a strong-willed child has nothing to do with coming in guns blazing, fingers pointing, and voice raised! Parenting your strong-willed child with effective strong-willed discipline has everything to do with your resolve being stronger than his own!

Parenting the Strong Willed Child Takes Perseverance

Your commitment to training your child up for a life of blessing must be dug in deeper than his heels are to getting his own way.

Does that mean your strong-willed child will forever be more difficult to train? No, a thousand times, No. The fantastic thing about a strong-willed child is that he is very results-driven.

So with a lot of intentional training and correctly disciplining a strong willed child on the front end, your power-house will likely grow to be a well behaved, great leader.

What’s the Key to Successfully Raising a Strong Willed Child?

YOU and Follow Through!

Outlasting, Withstanding, Relentless… You!

You can do it. It’s actually easier than you think. I love lay-it-all-out-there-for-me processes. So let’s just do that, shall we? Let’s put parenting the strong-willed child into a process. A nice strait-forward method, so you’re not left wondering about the effectiveness of your efforts. For my favorite book about disciplining a strong-willed child, click here.

Disciplining a Strong-Willed Child Effectively

Step One. Identify if your child is really strong willed.

  • Is your child true-blue, honest-to-goodness, real-deal strong-willed or simply lacking in child training? Often times I’ll speak to a mom who is overwhelmed with her child’s behavior only to find out that she’s been expecting her child to know how to act without any training. Good behavior does not come built-in. A child is not born with an understanding of what is acceptable.
  • While some child personalities lend themselves to compliance, every child needs clear boundaries and training to be successful with behavior. Start with this post to establish a solid foundation of training good behavior. Then get this ebook to better understand what it takes to raise a well-behaved child. Identify strong-willed vs. in need of consistent training.

Step Two. Understand the need for follow-through.

  • Once you’ve identified that your child truly has a will that longs to be shaped, it’s vital that you understand the most important aspect of disciplining this child will be follow-through. Consider my above example of the time-out chair. What if I would have stopped 20 minutes in and said to myself, “Woah, what the heck? There’s no way I can correct this kid. He’s just not going to do it!”??
  • What if it would have taken me 90 minutes? Or two hours? At what point would I have stopped trying? Never. I would have spent the entire day working on that one lesson. Because eventually, my child would get it. Eventually, it clicks. Your will must be stronger than your child’s. You must win the showdown. Understand the need to follow through.

Step Three. Establish boundaries.

  • After you’ve identified your child is strong-willed and understand the need to follow through, then you must set boundaries. Setting boundaries for your strong-willed child set you both up for greater success. Establish a handful of clearly stated rules and boundaries for your child.
  • Doing this ensures that your child knows what to expect from one day to the next. If you allow your strong-willed child to interrupt you during a conversation on Tuesday, then expect him to wait his turn on Saturday, Tuesday is what will stick in his mind. He will not see your boundary as an absolute, but rather a negotiable suggestion.

Step Four. Distinguish bad behavior.

  • Once you’ve established clear boundaries for your strong-willed child, know him well enough to understand if what he is saying/doing is defiant or administrative in nature. One of my strong-willed children often takes charge in group settings. I recognized this early on in her life. I have worked with her daily to help her use the correct words and body language to display leadership in place of sass/bossiness.
  • For example: when your strong-willed child says, “No, You’re doing it wrong!” Teach him to instead say, “Mommy, that is not how I believe it should be done. Please let me show you my way.” OR in place of “I DO IT MYSELF!” Train him to say, “I try myself, please?” Follow this verbal training up with explaining to your child that after he’s shown you “his” way, you get to make the final decision on all things. At that point, he is not to argue, negotiate, pout, fuss, etc. Learn about training these communication skills here and here.

*** this is tricky for parents of strong-willed kiddos. Your strong-willed child will NEED to be led and instructed by authority figures throughout his life. So it’s important he knows how to submit to his authority and understand his position.

It’s also important that you be your child’s cheerleader and step in to say, “He is not trying to be defiant, he is simply not communicating appropriately” when necessary. Don’t be afraid of either task.

Step Five. Relinquish some responsibility.

  • Your strong-willed child longs to be in charge. This isn’t a bad thing. Someone has to be in charge, right? While it’s important for children of all personality types to have some say-so in a few areas of their lives, even more so for your strong-willed child.
  • Surprisingly and fortunately, this is why chores and responsibility are healthy for disciplining a strong-willed child. A toy, chore, pet (within reason,) or assignment, that he can be (almost) solely in charge of will give him the sense of authority he yearns for. Find some things for him to be in charge of. Click here for a chore system that eliminates reminding, arguing, and nagging.

Strong Willed Child Characteristics to Look Out For

There are a few issues that inevitably arise while disciplining the strong willed child. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, these hazards make it feel as though you’re doing something majorly wrong. You’re not. These are just more areas to train and not a cause for concern. Let’s bring them out into the open, so they’re not so scary!

#1. Be on the lookout for grey areas.

Strong-willed children are prone to manipulation and negotiation. Your strong-willed child is typically SO convinced that he is right, that it doesn’t always “feel” wrong to him to manipulate to get his way. You’d be amazed how young this begins to happen.

An example of this would be; telling your child that he’s “all done” when screen time is over. But instead of shutting everything down and playing with toys instead, he may turn the iPad off and turn the TV on instead. Arguing that he thought you meant it was time to be done with the iPad, not necessarily ALL screens!

While this sounds like some advanced manipulating, I’ve seen it begin in children as young as four years old. This is why it’s SO important to be crystal clear in regards to rules and boundaries, eliminating as many grey areas as possible.

#2. Hop off the train at explanation station!

Your strong-willed child will naturally be crafty with words. She’ll be good at drawing you into a conversation about the “why’s” and “how’s” of your parenting. Don’t do it! Don’t get caught up. This kind of conversation, when presented in a defiant way, is a method of getting out of taking responsibility for herself.

The shortest answer to any unwarranted question from your child is no answer at all. When you feel strongly that an explanation for any instruction or consequence is in order, provide the explanation with as few words as possible.

#3. Stay humble.

Your strong-willed child may come off as a know it all. Help him navigate the waters of confidence vs. arrogance by setting a good example.

If you find yourself always needing to have the last word, you are making things worse. When it aggravates you that your strong-willed child thinks he’s right all the time, take a look in the mirror. Actions speak louder than words. You do not need to prove you are right to anyone. Particularly your child.

About the time you find yourself getting really good at expressing a spoken expectation, delivering praise or consequences accordingly and doing it all with as few words as possible, will be the same time your child’s behavior dramatically improves!

Summing-Up Strong-Willed Child Discipline Techniques

I want you to walk away with a few truths burned heavily in your brain, so let’s revisit them, one more time.

Having a strong-willed child is a blessing. This kid of yours has monumental potential! He simply needs you to show him the way with effective strong willed child discipline. This is significantly easier than you think.

Shift your thought process away from verbal over-correction and toward silent follow through of cause and effect consequences. Lastly, be aware of common misunderstandings you and your child are likely to have. You rule the roost. Make certain that is clear. At the same time, know your child’s heart.

Lastly, you have everything you need to parent and discipline your strong-willed child. Don’t feel ill-equipped because you are not as obstinate as your kiddo. Often times, it’s the laid-back Mommy who has the easiest time, because she is good at keeping her cool. Get good at keeping your cool and win the “battle-of-the-wills!”

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