Got a strong-willed child?

Make your life easier by avoiding these two parenting traps.

Strong-willed kids know what they want and they feel determined to get it. Your opinion is heard, but just doesn’t carry as much weight as it does for a child who loves to please. Strong-willed kids like to learn experientially (just because you TELL them the ground is hot, doesn’t mean they are going to believe you until they try it for themselves). If your child has a strong desire to be in charge of themselves and follow through on their own ideas, this blog is for you. 

Raising a strong-willed preschooler takes a lot of work, patience and parenting savvy. As they grow older, their determination can be directed at things other than defying MOM & DAD. Often, these children will direct their passion towards women’s rights, animal rights, or other causes they feel strongly about. It can be a joy to watch these strong-willed kids make their mark on the world. 

HOWEVER, parenting them when they are little is a big job! We have to try and keep them ALIVE in order for them to change the world and we’ve got to watch out for the dreaded POWER STRUGGLE. Power struggles are a lose-lose situation (click here to read my blog about power struggles) and one of the biggest reasons we get into them is our desire to be a good mom. 

We often don’t even realize that our beliefs about being a good mom have been triggered. We might have subconscious beliefs that sound like this:

A good mom has a kids who get good grades and go to college.

A good mom has kids who eat healthy foods and bathe regularly.

A good mom doesn’t have children with depression or anxiety.

My strong-willed daughter is crispy red right now with a horrible sunburn. This triggers my “I’m a bad Mom” because a “good mom” wouldn’t let this happen.

I tried to put sunscreen on her. I offered, I cajoled, I reminded, but she’s a strong-willed 13 year old and I can only do so much to protect her fair Irish skin. I have learned that if she’s going to make smart choices, it has to be her idea, not mine. If I stay out of it and act like I don’t care, I’m hoping the pain of the sunburn will teach her all she needs to know. (I was hoping her Dad’s skin cancer treatments might send the message but NOT YET!) 

In order to not enter into a power struggle, I have to believe I am still a good Mom, even while she has a terrible sunburn and is damaging her skin.

I have clients who struggle in these areas:

Am I still a good Mom even if my son doesn’t go to college?

Can I be happy and proud of myself as a parent, even if my daughter is depressed?

What if he does break every bone in his body? Can I still think I’ve done my job as his Mom?

Don’t put your ability to believe you’re a good parent, in the hands of your children. It’s a disaster waiting to happen!  It makes us cling with fear and ferocity, to the manner in which our children live their lives. When they sense how invested we are in their behavior, it’s a recipe for rebellion. If you’ve got a strong willed child, notice where your biggest triggers are and consider the idea that you could be a great Mom, no matter what they do. Make room for imperfection in yourself and your children. It will make your life so much easier and your child won’t feel the need to rebel against you.

Believing we are good parents will make parenting a strong-willed child easier, more enjoyable, and pave a quicker path to happiness (and maybe even compliance) for the both of you.