Parenting presents challenges no matter what the temperament of your youngster. However, when your youngster displays behaviors that are intense, persistent and oppositional, parenting becomes even more challenging. These kids often are identified as strong-willed.
Strong-willed kids usually think they know best, and they often are unwilling to cooperate or compromise with moms and dads or others. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you maintain your sanity while guiding your strong-willed youngster on his journey through childhood.
A strong-willed youngster is one who tries to gain power over any situation he finds himself in. He pushes boundaries and will not take "no" for an answer. The most important action is being consistent in the way you enforce your disciplinary techniques. Make sure you also direct your strong-willed youngster's powerful energy toward positive goals, so that you don't dampen his spirit.
Here are the top 10 parenting strategies for strong-willed, out-of-control children and teens:
1. The first and hardest lesson to learn is patience. A strong-willed child loves to agitate and antagonize, creating a heated debate, an angry home or any other unpleasant social environment. This is his goal, and usually, he succeeds. Patience means (a) hold back angry outbursts, and (b) use an understanding, calm approach to each tense situation.
2. Accept your youngster unconditionally. Loving your youngster unconditionally, no matter how often he misbehaves or frustrates you, is essential for the well-being of all kids. The behaviors of a strong-willed youngster often make him "unlikable," but he must know that he will always have your love and support.
3. Always be true to your word. Understand that your strong-willed youngster can take advantage of you if you do not do this because you are too busy or too tired to follow through on what you have previously stated. If, for example, you have said that you will not allow your youngster to watch television if he does not cooperate, then you must take this privilege away from him for some time.
4. Avoid nagging, blaming or shaming. As your youngster challenges you with misbehavior, excessive energy and resistance, it is easy to fall into a habit of yelling and blaming him. However, this only creates anger and fuels the power struggle between the two of you. Similarly, nagging your youngster creates added frustration for both of you. Instead, parent with love and rely on the clear rules and boundaries you have already set. Rather than nagging or yelling, speak calmly and clearly; make sure to maintain consistency.
5. Channel his behaviors. Rather than trying to rid your youngster of his challenging behaviors, try to channel those behaviors into constructive activities. For example, strong-willed kids tend to have a lot of energy that can be channeled into hobbies such as sports, art or musical endeavors. Direct your strong-willed youngster's energy into constructive activities like volunteering in the community or playing on sports teams.
6. Do your best to exercise patience in the midst of conflicts with your strong-willed youngster. Recognize the fact that your screaming will only add fuel to his fire. Stand firm without provoking your youngster to fight against you.
7. Leave the room when your strong-willed youngster will not stop throwing a tantrum, as long as he is not in danger of being harmed if you do so. Understand that once your youngster realizes that his screaming, crying and fussing do not affect you, he will eventually stop this behavior on his own.
8. Look your strong-willed youngster right in the eye when you speak to him to block out any surrounding distractions. Do this whether you are disciplining him or engaging in a normal conversation. Understand that your youngster needs to know he has your full attention (as strong-willed kids are often just looking for attention when employing their willful nature).
9. Praise your youngster. Focus on positive rather than negative messages. Let your youngster know that you believe in his ability to make correct decisions, and praise him for doing so.
10. Set clear limits, and follow through with consequences. A strong-willed youngster needs to know what you expect of her. Set clear rules and limits, and discuss these with your youngster. But do not create a rule for every behavior. Too many rules and limits will exhaust you as you try to enforce every one and will also frustrate your youngster. When you have discussed the rules with your youngster, let him know what the consequence will be for not following rules, and consistently follow through with the consequences. If you discipline inconsistently, your youngster will continue to test the limits. Understand that strong-willed kids need to experience the consequences of their actions (instead of simply listening to your reasoning). Figure out what matters the most to your youngster to create the most appropriate consequences for him when his behavior gets out of control.
==> Help for Parents with Strong-Willed, Out-of-Control Teens