Practical Strategies for Parenting Strong Willed Children, Part 2.

If you are parenting a strong willed, or spirited child, it is always useful to have some strategies up your sleeve to work through various issues with them. The strong willed child can be a challenge today, but stay strong, because ‘tomorrow’ he will be an amazing adult, and all the antics he (or she of course!) have performed will make great stories to tell! When we channel the strong willed energies and train our child self control, obedience and respect, the strong will becomes an asset in their life. Sometimes it helps to remember the bigger picture during their childhood. Because some days your pure objective (if you are like me) is to get to the end of the day without committing homicide. (That was a joke people!) Seriously though, I did explain earlier in the week the emotional toll that parenting challenging children brings.

So in the meantime, strategies help us to get from day to day. These are quite simple really, and you are probably already doing a lot of these things. If you are like me though, it’s always good to be reminded and put them into action, even with a slight twist. Yesterday I gave some strategies – check it out here. Here are five more that might be helpful, or at least a good reminder.

1. Give Them Cool Down Time

When the situation has become tense or out of control, allowing your child to cool down is useful. I often think that it is akin to pressing the ‘reset’ button. It is important to remember that the child is very aware that the cool down time is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Whatever you require of him/her still needs to be done. However, a cool down time gives them to pull their emotions together and re-enter the situation with a good attitude.

It sounds ideal. My experience is that this strategy is not always guaranteed success. Sometimes your strong willed child will use the time to strategise more hideous approaches to bad behaviour. Don’t give up though. Also, it’s important that during the calmer times, you sit down and discuss the benefits of correctly using the cool down time. If you can talk things through when the situation is not heated, it will have more impact when that time is required. You can also brainstorm with your child ways that they think could help them cool down. This way the strong will child feels a part of the process and doesn’t strive to buck the system as much.

Encourage the child to request cool down times as well. It is actually teaching them self control and awareness of the signals that they are becoming angry. The ideal is to get the child to regulate their own emotions after all. Be aware, if your child is like mine. They will try to manipulate the system, so make sure you make the boundaries clear. My child started to run outside at the start of being corrected claiming he was needing to cool down. I had to explain that he needed to obtain permission to cool down by asking politely. This in itself was a battle. But if I let him run out whenever he wanted, I could clearly see that he was not making a heart response and was avoiding being truly repentant.

“Cool Downs” I have used have been:

  • A simple time out. Especially when the child is younger.
  • Going outside for five or ten minutes. 
  • Read a book together.
  • Do a different activity together and then return to the topic that had caused dissension.
  • Go for a run. (I talked about this yesterday.)
  • Send them across the road to the neighbours for half an hour.
  • Go over to Grandmas (or someone you trust who can handle a child that is in an agitated state) for a little while. (This is after big meltdowns, it’s been one of my most useful reset button. Although if the child is too agitated, you need to know that the person will be able to handle any continued bad behaviour.)
Use an App to Reward Behaviour

For realz! There’s an app for that? Yes, there is! This is one my most recent strategies! I have recently downloaded Story Bots Beep and Boop onto my iPhone. The kids love it! I’m sure there are other apps out there. I haven’t gone exploring yet. If you know of a brilliant one – share it! Because at some point in time I’m sure Beeps and Boops will get boring, so I’d love to have something else to fill the spot.

Basically, it’s like a sticker chart, only on your phone. Which suits me, because I am hopeless at sticker charts. You get a beep for doing good things (and you can label the behaviours, such as being kind to bro/sis, or tidying room) and boops for bad. I actually am very sparing with my use of boops. I prefer to utilise this tool for pre-dominantly positive reinforcement. Mind you, the boys are always dobbing one another in to get black marks against each others name. (That’s a whole different issue.)

Spend Time Alone With Your Child

If you know anything about “Love Languages” some children value quality time more than others. That’s my Jonty. But like all love languages, it should be applied to all children whether it’s as important to them or not. I often look for excuses to take the kids somewhere alone. (Although, I really need to start doing it more regularly with the triplets.) According to the personality of the child, it depends on how you do it. Jonty will pretty well flourish with any alone time, even if it’s just holding my hand and chatting while we go shopping. We’ve often done this and he often comments how nice it is. A little stop for a bite to eat is also a big favourite of my little sweet toothed child.

We went to the night church service, just the two of us and stopped at Maccas on the way home.

Trent is a bit more about the action. I will often take him to a park. Being a little extrovert he will then normally make friends with other children on the playground and launch into a game with them. (Where he will reign as supreme leader.) It sometimes feels a bit meaningless to me, but it isn’t. His eyes have a shine by the end and he will talk about it for weeks. I do prefer feeding ducks with Trent over playgrounds though, there tends to be more time with just us, and I do so enjoy time with my little fella.

Another good thing about alone time is it gives you an open opportunity to discuss some of the issues that have been arising in their lives. Talking this over in a relaxed setting is far more effective than trying to correct behaviour in the heat of the moment.

Cuddle Your Child

This is capitalising on another love language, “Physical Touch”. This
is Trent’s primary love language.  When he is in the middle of a meltdown, I will often say, “Trent, hang on. Do you want a cuddle?” He will almost always come straight into my arms, I cuddle him until he lets go, and normally the situation is diffused.

I’ve recently tried it to Jonty during an intense moment, and I was surprised that it completely diffused the situation for him too. I’ve used it several times since. I am also finding it helpful with the triplets. If they are having a two year old tantrum, I will pick them up and cuddle them. When they have calmed down, and it may take a while, everything is so much more calm. Somehow it just allows them to know that despite any bad behaviour, I love them unconditionally. We are then able to continue a discussion calmly and if there was something the kids needed to do, there will normally be less or no complaining as they do it.


Did I surprise you with that heading? If so, that’s because it’s not a strategy that is promoted normally, especially by the experts! But hey, I live in the real world here! And seriously, bribery does not have to equal corruption.

Most of us respond well to rewards, and bribery is simply capitalising on that human instinct. The key to using bribery successfully is to use it sparingly. Choose your moment, and consider your wording, because if you say it correctly it’s not so much as a bribe, but rather the consequence of making wise choices. For instance. Instead of saying, “Tidy up your room and then you can play a game.” Say, “Your room needs to be tidied so that things are more organised in there. Once you have tidied it up, we will play a game together in there because there will be room to play comfortably.”

I think the reason why bribery is discouraged is because there can be so many dangers attached when it is done incorrectly. Children can learn that they don’t need to do anything unless there is a reward attached and it can encourage greed.

Sometimes, bribery is simply a sanity saver for a mother. If you do use bribery infrequently, abolish guilt if you have to say, “Sit quietly and then you can play my iPad”. There are mounds of guilt we feel as parents. It’s not useful. Be aware of the pitfalls of bribery and make every effort to avoid them. But hey, if you’ve just had a really stressful week and you need to use the DVD as a babysitting service for a few hours, go ahead. There’s always next week, and you can plan heaps of face to face activities to make up for the screen time. Sometimes a parent’s sanity needs to be saved so that we all reach the next week!

Do use any of the above strategies? Got any good forms of bribery which work a treat on your kids? Is there an app that assists your behaviour management strategies?

PS. I’m finding it very motivating letting you know what is coming up next. That way I don’t back out of writing a post! So, next week I’ll share a great book to read with your kids and let you know of some activities we did with it. Also, since I’ve talked a fair bit about my older two boys this week, I’ll give you an update on what life is like with 25 month old triplets!

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