Today is a new day.
You’ve awakened, refreshed from yesterday’s power struggles and you’re feeling confident that today will be different. You’re feeling ready to try the new skills you’ve been working on and to let the self-care that you’ve been trying to give yourself sink in so that the outcomes can be different today.
Today is a new day…a day without power struggles with your strong-willed child. You’re ready for this!
Now, fast forward 5 minutes and somehow you and your strong-willed child have found yourselves in yet another power struggle. About what? Neither of you will probably remember a week from now, but in the moment, it seemed extremely important to both of you. It seemed like it was a fight worth fighting.
- He’s right, and he wants you to know that.
- You’re right, and you want him to know that.
- He’s annoyed, and he wants you to know that he doesn’t appreciate being annoyed.
- You’re an adult, and he needs to learn that adults have value to share and in order to be successful in life; he has to accept that fact.
Whatever the reason, you’re caught in another power struggle. And despite all of the energy you’ve put into using new techniques to help him to learn how to be more cooperative—and your goals to try to be a calm and present parent—you find yourself resorting to yelling again.
And, like most parents, now that you’ve had a moment to let the emotions wash over you, here comes the guilt. You only have so many hours in a day to spend with your kids, and you don’t want to spend them arguing. And you definitely don’t love spending them yelling.
Why Does it Feel Like You and Your Strong-Willed Child Are Always Fighting?
Well, the honest answer here is that it’s because you mostly are.
In the therapy world, we advise against saying words like “always” and “never” because these just aren’t a true reality. So, in reality, you aren’t always fighting; there are great moments with positive connections. Unfortunately though, it seems that the power struggling, arguing and stressed-out-parent-yelling moments seem to dominate these days and it’s hard to remember all of the positive interactions because of it.
Since your strong-willed child has a tendency to believe that she is right all of the time, she requires significantly more guidance from you on a regular basis. Your guidance definitely comes from a loving place, because you desire her to have great outcomes in life:
- You want her to know how to be a good friend, to compromise and to take turns so that she can have a fulfilling social life as a child, adolescent and adult.
- You want her to understand that her actions have consequences, for herself and for others, and that she needs to understand that in order to function in life.
- You want her to know that other people have value to share and that people aren’t just telling her what to do to boss her around, something she’ll need to know for a lifetime of school, work and relationships.
But, unfortunately, your loving guidance is met with opposition. Your strong-willed child is most likely to argue with you and refuse your guidance over the guidance of others.
Why? Well it’s not because you’re doing anything wrong. You’re her parent, the person who has been there with her since day 1. She loves you, feels safe with you, and all at the same time cannot stand that you have so much control over her world.
She might be able to accept that her teacher’s job is to teach her and to tell her when she’s made mistakes that will affect her learning.
She might be able to accept that the principal or preschool director has power and can tell her what the rules are that she must follow in order to remain a student of the school.
But she might not want to accept that you have value to share about much of anything, because it’s your job to teach her as she grows and to teach her many of the things in her life she must know. And that just really bothers her.
She thinks that she can do it on her own and that you don’t know anything!
So what can you do? If you’re the person in her life who most needs to share information with her and yet she refuses most of what you have to share, how do you help her so that she doesn’t grow up violating every rule and creating constant conflict in all of her relationships?
Below are a few simple tips to help your strong-willed child to be more interested in taking on your advice, and for integrating that into valuable life lessons for the short and long-term.Tips to help #parents to stop #yelling at their #StrongWilledChild #parenting Click To Tweet
Tip #1: Let Them Figure Some Things Out for Themselves
I know, I know…this seems completely counterintuitive. How can you help your child to take on your advice when I’m asking you just not to give it to him? The answer is that the less advice that you have for him, the more likely he is going to take it when you do offer it to him.
Think about a day in your life. How often are you—inadvertently or out of necessity—managing most of his day? Since 80% of the words that we say to kids are commands we are rushing, pushing, asking, demanding, hurrying and otherwise telling children what to do most of the day. And for a strong-willed child, that just isn’t going to fly!
Remember that a strong-willed child finds it absolutely necessary to figure things out on his own to decide what is right for him. If we jump in with our decision about what is right and wrong, we take away his opportunity to work through this much needed process—something that is as engrained into his biology as his eye color—and invite a power struggle.
So, whenever possible, try to limit the amount of advice you give to him and instead take a moment to take in the beauty of what you are watching as he tries to solve the problem on his own.
Allowing your #SWC to figure things out for themselves can decrease #PowerStruggles Click To Tweet
He may get frustrated.
He may start to cry, stomp, scream or knock something over.
He may give up and start over again.
But the pride that you will feel when you watch him go through all of these emotions, experience defeat, and yet persist to try to figure it out on his own will be truly overwhelming to you, in a very positive way.
And throughout this process, there may come a time when he decides that it is too difficult and he will ask you for help. At that time, he’s giving you permission to be the voice of reason that he needs and to offer some guidance that might help him to tackle this dilemma. Then–and only then–will he want to take your guidance and see how it can impact his outcomes.
(Hint: I would suggest that during this entire process, from your child trying to figure something out on his own to asking you for help, you utilize The Narrator Technique to help him to see what is happening and how his guidance can help him.)
Now, since you are his parent, there will definitely be times when it may be necessary for you to set appropriate expectations as his parent. When you must to do this, I encourage you to use Baseline Expectations versus Micromanaging Expectations, which you can read more about in a previous post.
Setting baseline expectations and allowing your child to have control over how those baseline expectations are met, combined with giving him the time and freedom to resolve some of his own challenges, can really help him to feel more comfortable to come to you for advice in the future.
Tip #2: Use the Experiences of Others as Teaching Moments
Think for a second about how you feel when you’ve messed up.
You hope nobody saw your mistake.
You might even hope that no one is going to hold you accountable to the mistake because you’re embarrassed to admit that you made it in the first place.
We all feel this way when we make a mistake…adults and strong-willed children included. While we do need to know how to learn from our mistakes, we might appreciate the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others instead of having to continually focus on our own mess ups each and every time.
If you’ve received my free guide, you’ll notice that during The Preview Technique, I offer an alternative to talking about the child’s behavior, to instead include the behaviors or others, like scenarios witnessed in the grocery store or neighborhood or characters in books, movies and TV shows.
Instead of talking to your child about what will happen to her if she makes a mistake, consider helping her to learn about consequences by learning from the mistakes of others. I’ve written about how to do that in The Preview Technique.
Now, I do want to put a little caveat in here that I am not recommending that you stand next to your child, talking about the choices and associated consequences for a child in your child’s classroom while the child is standing right next to you. That is not a very respectful way of helping children to learn the consequences of poor choices. Instead, I encourage parents to use natural teaching moments, in a way that is not disrespectful to the child’s parents, grandparents, teacher, peers, siblings or other important people in the child’s life.
Often, parents ask me for books and other resources that can be helpful in teaching children about how to improve their behavior to utilize for these types of conversations. Ultimately, any children’s book can be used to teach lessons about how to act in socially appropriate ways, but there are a variety of children’s books available that allow you to better have these conversations because of the actions of characters, including:
The Berenstain Bears, by Stan and Jan Berenstein
- Mama Bear is often trying to teach the children a lesson about something.
Little Critter collection, by Mercer Mayer
- The main character can have strong wills and is prone to making some mistakes that could be great learning opportunities for your child.
Winnie the Pooh books, by various authors
- Tigger often forgets to think about others as he bounces freely that he oftentimes bothers others without intending to.
- Rabbit often focuses on tasks that need to be completed that he oftentimes doesn’t understand how his actions are affecting others
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems
- Your child may love screaming their favorite word, “No!” at the pages of this book when a pigeon tries everything in his power to drive the bus, even though the bus driver said that he absolutely could not.
What if Everybody Did That? & What if Everybody Said That?, by Ellen Javernick
- The main characters makes some poor choices and the reader learns that if everyone acted in this way, there would be some real consequences
Throughout my research, I have not found a children’s book specifically targeted to help children understand the impact of strong-willed behavior. So, that’s why I’ve been working on a children’s book that does just this.
This September, Henry Knows Best! A Story About Learning From Mistakes and Listening to Others will debut to help make these conversations a little less difficult for you.
You’ll be the first to know about it’s release if you are part of my email list. If you are not, you can sign up here to be the first to be notified when Henry Knows Best! is available for purchase.
Tip #3: Capitalize on Positive Moments
Because you’re raising a strong-willed child, it may often feel as if every interaction you have is a negative one. As I mentioned earlier, this is a pretty typical experience for parents of strong-willed children, but even though this is normal, your relationship deserves more than constant power struggles and arguments.
To overcome some of the negativity, try to find moments that allow you to encourage, support and find joy in your child—no matter how many negative interactions have taken place between you on any given day or week.
To do so, try using the Love Explosion Technique on a daily basis.
Even if you’re feeling angry and frustrated with all of the power struggles between you this week, try incorporating the love explosion technique into your routine with your child daily to break up the pattern of negativity between you. I especially enjoy the part of this technique that involves allowing your child to overhear you saying something positive about them to another person.
Kids love hearing their parents sing their praises to others. Unfortunately, strong-willed children may be more likely to have overheard their parents asking for help with their child’s challenging behavior, discussing consequences to behavior with other caregivers or educators, or apologizing for their child’s behavior that upset an adult who doesn’t quite understand the needs and personality of a strong-willed child.
Another technique that can be helpful in building your child’s self-esteem and decreasing the chances that he views you as thinking about him only in a negative way is to give him credit for the things that he is able to accomplish on his own.
This is an alternative to praising that builds confidence within your child while taking your feelings and opinions as an adult out of the equation. After all, we want him to do things because they’re the right thing to do, not just because you’re watching and he knows he’ll get into trouble, right?
If you’re interested in learning more about how to use this technique, you can check out this page about Giving Credit. I promise that it is a very effective technique, but it does take some time to adjust because as adults, we are so used to saying “good job” and “way to go,” that it can take some time to adjust the way you respond to your child’s accomplishments. So if it takes you awhile to get the hang of this, don’t worry…that’s a very common experience for parents when first trying this out.
To overcome negativity in #parenting, try to find moments that allow you to find joy in your #child Click To Tweet
Did you try any of these techniques and have success to stop the amount of yelling between you and your strong-willed child? Leave a comment below to share your success story to help others working towards the same goal!