Parents aren’t proud to admit it, but it’s a reality, so I hear it all the time…
My other kid isn’t like this.
My oldest child is an angel. How did she get like this?
My other child is so sweet. How on earth did she get to be so mean, disrespectful and…naughty?
When Your Strong-Willed Child Has a “Perfect” Sibling
Many times a family is blindsided with a strong-willed child after having the “perfect” first child.
They weren’t prepared for this strong-willed child because their experience thus far has been with the easy going, flexible oldest child, and now they wonder…
How do I parent this child? Everything I used to do with my oldest child isn’t working!
Even though they feel terrible admitting it (but luckily know that I won’t judge them and in my office tears are 100% accepted!), they tell me that they much prefer to spend time with their other child because their strong-willed child is just too much to handle most days and they’re at their wit’s end!
And so begins an endless cycle…
Having the “Perfect” Sibling Can Worsen Strong-Willed Behavior
You see, the strong-willed child is already at a disadvantage upon birth. As I’ve said probably about a million times on this site, the strong-willed child is born with this personality characteristic; the personality is not caused by anything you did as a parent.
So, because she is born this way, she is already at risk for being the kid who frustrates you, who tests you to the end of your sanity, who makes you feel just a slight twinge of excitement when you get to have some time away from her (again this is a 100% judgment free zone!).
Take that and combine it with the fact that she has the “perfect” older sibling and now you have the perfect storm for trouble…
I’ve always told you that you didn’t cause her personality, but there are things you can do to help. Therefore, much of what you do as parents, or even as a family unit, can help or hurt the difficult behaviors you are seeing.
And having the “perfect” sibling can absolutely hurt!
She’s born to be the child who argues with you, and she totally sees that her “perfect” sibling isn’t that way. She knows that you see the difference between them:
She sees the difference in the way you talk to her sister.
She sees that she’s constantly being told to do better and (dare I say) be more like her sister.
She sees that you do, in fact, like spending more time with her.
And all of this fuels her strong wills and makes her more controlling, demanding and argumentative. She doesn’t know how to be like her sister; she only knows how to be herself. So now, she’s going to be the strongest amount of herself that she knows how to be!
Breaking the Cycle of Strong-Willed = Bad in Your Family
Being the sibling to the “perfect” child is a huge challenge. Many kids can become so defeated by living in the shadow of their sibling that they simply develop the pattern to seek out negative attention because they really don’t know how to achieve the same level of positive attention as their sibling.
For these kids, seeking out negative attention becomes much easier than positive attention, and the negative attention can oftentimes be so significant that they feel a pretty strong reward from that.
I can’t get mom to listen to me unless I’m arguing with her…then I’ve got her full attention!
The technique that I recommend to parents to help combat this attention-seeking-through-negative-behavior pattern is The Love Explosion Technique.
This technique is the easiest technique in my free 9-step guide (seriously, it takes only a few seconds and no supplies or deep thought are needed) and it’s the most valuable technique for helping strong-willed children to develop some self-esteem that may have been worn down by watching that perfect sibling do everything so perfectly all the time.
[I know, you’re thinking that your strong-willed child has plenty of self-esteem. She’s so confident that she’s right all the time, so she must be confident in herself, right? Wrong! Your strong-willed child is so used to being told that she’s not doing things the right way and has likely heard people (family and perfect strangers) criticize her and your ability to parent her. She doesn’t feel super confident in herself, but she might not be willing to say that to you since she is so strong-willed.]
Even if your child doesn’t have a “perfect” sibling, this technique can work wonders for any strong-willed child, because she’s used to receiving the message that she’s not good enough from her surroundings…
- Family members
- The random lady at the grocery store who doesn’t like how he’s acting
- And even the kids at school or the neighborhood who have figured out what adults think of him and now know it’s safe to blame him for everything!
You get the picture!
The Love Explosion Technique
Out of the blue, pull your child close to you and tell her something you absolutely love about her.
Choose things related to behavior, and other things not related to behavior, so that your child understands that her ability to listen to and follow directions isn’t the only thing that you value about her.
Name these things for your child, give her a hug and thank her for making those choices all on her own.
Give her 100% of the credit (i.e. don’t tell her that the only reason she acted that way was because of something you did.)
An example of what not to say would be:
See. I told you your sister would like it if you helped her.
A better way of saying this might be:
I love how you chose to help your sister clean her room. Look at how happy she is that you helped her. Thanks for being so kind.
Repeat often throughout the day and week, as frequently as you can find time for initially, and then decrease (but don’t eliminate!) over time if you see improvement in behaviors.
To make this extra valuable, do this technique in public, except instead of telling your child what you love about her, let your child overhear you telling someone else what you love most about your child.
An example of this might be
I’m telling you, I’ve got the smartest daughter. Her teacher said she is reading three levels above her grade level. I’m so proud of her.
Want this technique in PDF format to save for use later? You can download a copy here.
Tell me what you think. Did you notice a difference in your strong-willed child after implementing The Love Explosion Technique? Leave a comment below to encourage others that there is a light at the end of tunnel and things can get better!