We have either seen one, or have one: the child for whom normal discipline does not work, a child with a strong will and a temper to match.
Often, the best way to deal with our strong-willed child is by changing our actions and the way we speak. It's true that we can rarely make our children do anything, but we can help ease the tension and power struggle by working on good habits.
1. Keep Calm
Yelling happens, tempers flare. But don't let it be the norm for your family. It is our responsibility as parents to be in charge of our tone, and to model calm behavior for our children. When we get worked up, they do, too.
2. Change the Way You Give Verbal Directions
The North Dakota Education Association published several tips on their Ready Child website with some tips from the Love and Logic discipline philosophy. The approach suggests using sentences that place the responsibility for the child's behavior squarely where it should be — with the child, rather than using words that show how much a child's misbehavior may have affected the parent.
3. Get Used to Stating Expectations Clearly, and Sometimes More Than Once for the Same Routine
This is a hard one. There are times when giving a direction once, then walking away, is highly effective. (Make no mistake, most children get it.) When dealing with very young children who anger easily, get down to eye level with them and give the directions they are to follow, or what they can expect. For example, even if you have the exact same bedtime routine every night, it may help to tell your child that there will be one book, one song, and one prayer before lights out.
4. Focus on Your Relationship With Your Child
Cynthia Tobias, author of books about parenting strong-willed children, recently spoke on the Focus on the Family radio show suggesting that the best thing parents can do is to demonstrate love to their children and cultivate a relationship with them. It may be the most effective tool in persuading them that we the rules we have are for their best interests.
5. Choose Your Battles
While it is important to remain consistent in enforcing behavior, there are times when, as parents, we need to step back and decide if we are trying to micro-manage (i.e., control) every little behavior in our children. Are we expecting perfection? Choose behaviors important to your family values. Enforce those and general house rules.
6. Be Willing to Parent Different Children Differently
What works for one may not work for another. Do not let your feeling that everything should be the same interfere with effectively working with the individual personalities of your children.
7. Embrace Their Strengths
A child's strong will may be used for good or for bad. By always concentrating on the latter, we can miss a great opportunity to train them to use their personalities for the former. Make sure your strong-willed child knows that he has some excellent traits that may serve him, and others, well.
This post was included in the latest edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.