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Dealing with Strong-Willed Children and Teens

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


Anita Marshall said...

Thanks Mark - your newsletters are fantastic. Anita

Anonymous said...

As always, I love getting your e-mails with coaching for my son!!!

Anonymous said...

I have been recommending your ebook to all...extremely helpful. I have struggled with my overindulged 14yo daughter...running away, alcohol, drugs, shoplifting, school suspension, death threats well as an exhusband undermining all attempts to gain some control over situation.
Once I have completed the information again, I am sure I will be asking for advice...
Thankyou again,

Anonymous said...

Nice site, nice and easy on the eyes and great content too.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to be able to tell you I have gotten so much from your very helpful and supportive ebook. I have only gone through about 5/6 chapters, but I have already found it very enriching, and paying dividends in my relationships.
I am a single parent of two boys including a super-challenging :) 18 year old. I also teach children and I am a psychotherapist-in-training. I have studied many behavioural techniques, I am friends with counsellors of all stripes and I have read A LOT of parenting and psychology books.
As a parent who has struggled with their kid I have found your teachings to be some of the most lucid and compassionate I have experienced. They are helping me and my family in a real way.
I want to thank you for creating your book, and for clearly using your talents and energy in such a purposeful way. It is a real blessing and very meaningful.

Anonymous said...

Four months ago, my second daughter who s 16 years old left home to live with the most unsuitable boyfriend who s facing court charges and his awful family. she knew that we didnt approve of her boyfriend but she wont see why. she cut all her friends off and not speaking to her cousins either. Since then she s been foul to us even though we kept trying to keep in contact – she only ring us when she want something. Four r months ago before she left her older sister went travelling as she finished her A levels and my father was dying of pancreatic cancer so it s probably was her reaction to do this to us. She has been a difficult child since the age of seven as she likes to take the most attention from us and we thought we coped really well until this happened. its heartbreaking that she did that to us and she seems to be blaming me for everything. It was her choice to leave home and not doing A levels or any work at college. she s not doing anything not even get a job! We tried everything with her and we had her for lunch two weeks ago. it went well at first and then she was so foul to me at the end. it was a disaster. Now im dreading christmas knowing that my dad is not here anymore and my daughter too. its so awful to lose two people i love. is there any way we can get her back? maybe it s too late. Bless my eldest daughter came home from travelling to help us out and tried to talk to my second daughter but nothing works. Now she s back to travelling again. we are very close family so its hard for us to think why she s doing this to us. she s not speaking to us anymore so we dont know what to do next.

Anonymous said...

Am a mother of Eight years son, when my son turned fourteen he became defiant and very rebellious. He withdrew from all his friends . My son was very good prior to this. In high shcool he literary slept through all the high school years. He curses at me and his father . My son is an only child I raised him in a christian environment, no drugs and no alcohol. I took to private school until high school where he refused private school.Two years ago he went to live with his dad after he terrorized with verbal abuse every day he started blaming for his rebellion. He lived with his father until Dec 2 2010 when he took a knife and tried to stub his dad. He was taken to a psych ward in hospital for a day because he did not show any signs of psychosis. He is very manupilative. After discharge, I took him in because he did not have a place to be discharged to , the agreement was that will not continue with the behavior in my house. Now, he has started calling me names , he has no job or a place to stay. He is planning to go to a community college this January which he refuse to go in September 2010. What do I do. I cannot bear to be verbally abused everyday I ask him to do something. In previous I have taken him to all counselling but he has refused to change. He stopped going to church four years ago he just want to spend his time on the computer all day and night. I turned the computer off last night he started cursing at me and am not going to set back until he does what I asked him to to keep his room in order.

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