Practical Strategies For Parenting Strong Willed Children

Having a strong willed child requires a lot of strategies to help your darling offspring grow into a valuable member of society. The key is to stay positive and never, ever give up on your child. That is why it is so important to keep on the lookout or be reminded of strategies to help you both along your journey.

On Tuesday I shared a raw and emotional post on my Insecurities while raising a Strong Willed Child. I also promised to share some strategies today to include in your parenting toolbox. This is not an exhaustive list, and these are pre-dominantly strategies, there are a lot more methods for administering discipline and order in your home. I will share the strategies first, because even though a lot of parenting experts believe you need to understand the method first, I know as a parent, I’m always hunger for some ideas, some how-to’s. Even if it’s to give me some temporary respite while I further research the ways to tackle the underlying issues. Having said that, most of these strategies will actually work towards addressing the root behaviour anyway.

Of course these ideas can be applied to your child that is not strong willed also.

So here are 5 strategies to help parent a challenging child.

1. Say, “I’m proud of you.” 

Be on the lookout to praise your child. I will regularly lean across to my kids, whether they are actually doing something really fantastic or even just looking cute and whisper, “I’m so proud of you.” quite often it is in the middle of something, so I don’t even say any more than that. But when I do this, his little face lights up and whatever he is doing, he does with renewed vigour.

I’ve often done this during a church service. When we are shopping I might whisper this in his ear. At home when I see him exhibiting a pleasing behaviour I will tell him I’m proud of him and then tell him exactly why that behaviour is something I’m proud about. This morning I told him I was proud of him sharing a special car with his brother and how important generosity is.

Another little phrase that also makes him lift his shoulders and head higher is, “I missed you.” After we have been apart for some reason. Jonty now often asks if I missed him.

On the beach recently without kids. I made sure I told me kids I missed them when I got home.

2. Follow through the strong willed child’s threats.

When my two eldest are angry, they make all types of threats of things that they want done or are going to do. Of course they don’t want it done most of the time, and are just trying to get their own way, and sometimes it is even their intention to hurt you as much as possible in the process.

I have been trying to teach my kids that they need to “Say what they mean, and mean what they say” (Right Horton?). Following through on their threats is one strategy that they use which has slowed down their use of rash statements.

On my post on Tuesday, I shared how my son went and threw his birthday presents in the bin during a tantrum. (I’m sorry if you are one of the people who gave him a present, it really wasn’t personal or any reflection of the quality of your gift!) Of course he fully intended to retrieve them, but when I went and got them and locked them away in my cupboard. I didn’t just give them back either. I made him earn back presents one at a time, or I have produced a present to do together (like puzzles or activities) as quality time.

Other examples of following through his threat:
I don’t want dessert. He didn’t want to eat his dinner. So I have packed up the dinner he wasn’t eating and sent him to bed. Trent is very slow to make this statement now.

We ALWAYS have dinnertime battles with Trent when pumpkin soup is served. This time he has safety goggles on ready for the occasion.  

I don’t want to go to the park. They didn’t want to do their jobs first. Guess what? They did the jobs. Then found the reward was missing.

I don’t want to share {that toy} So I took the toy away. And then they didn’t have to share it anymore.

Jonty also has made statements insisting he wants to do extra jobs when he is trying to get his own way and not do what I have asked him to. I have then allowed him to do those jobs, and then I still insist on him doing the original job I asked him to.

The thing with strong willed children, is they want to remain the one who is in control. If they learn that their loving parent is truly the one who is in control, they actually respond better in the future knowing the boundaries are secure and unmoving.

3. Go for a walk with your child.

I did this recently with Jonty and it had great results. We had been head butting a lot and Jonty had been losing his cool several times within a short time period. I left the other children with someone else, and drove him to a nearby short nature walk along a tiny little creek.

Jonty loved exploring. We got to talk about nature, such as rings on trees, birds and ecosystems. Towards the end, we sat down. I had brought my Bible and had a list of Bible verses on patience. We actually only read one passage. (The love passage in 1 Corinthians 13 – there’s a lot to discuss there.) Despite wanting to further explore, he did listen and start to ask questions. We then both prayed together. This was a great time to also apologise to Jonty about my own behaviour. Unfortunately, a lot of Jonty’s temper is my genes. So, he regularly sees me lose my temper also in a striking example of “Do what I say, not what I do.” And of course, that approach has very little success. It softens the relationship when you admit, apologise and ask forgiveness for your own inadequacies. It also gives your child the ability to observe how you work on your own issues. If I’m feeling angry, I have said to the kids. “Mummy is feeling really angry now and I’m about to lose my temper. I need to cool down before I speak to you anymore.”

We only have explore to the right of the track. I have promised Jonty to go back (it needs to be soon, because he keeps asking to return) and walk along the left of the track. I’m real

ly looking forward to it. And I still have my list of scriptures to keep sharing together.

4. Physically burn of the negative energy.

This is a great strategy to use when you see a storm brewing. Whenever possible, try to diffuse the situation before it becomes explosive. (While not giving in to their will. Work together if it’s possible, but don’t allow your child to make up the terms and conditions.) Rather then launching into a battle I will often send the agitated child outside with some instructions to do something physical to burn off that negative energy that is starting to surface. I might tell him, (because my girl is too young to use this strategy on yet), to bounce as high as he can 20 times on the trampoline.

Putting shoes on and run around the house, if you have a small yard, you will need to put a number of times to run around it too! I would get older kids to run around the block if necessary. A grandmother shared with me that she used to send her kids to run around the block when they were getting to difficult. This tip stuck with me, and since she has fantastic grown up kids now, I always thought I’d give it a try! She made her four kids run around the block in the rain once! They had been fighting indoors endlessly, and after the rainy block run, they came back best of friends! I have found a simple run around the house helps my little guy calm his emotions a little.

Make an obstacle course or physical challenge stations and tell them to complete the course three times. Record the time each time, and see if they can get quicker. Climb something.

A word of warning. If a strong willed child is dedicated to fighting a battle, this will not always diffuse the situation. But hey, it’s worth a try, because sometimes it does work. And you get to know the signs when distraction is futile.

5. Pray for your children at night.

Well, pray for children when you can and at all points of the day or night! But find a routine where you pause to pray for them regularly. For me it’s at night.

When I am tucking my children in before I go to bed, I will often pause, place my hand on them and pray. I will pray over a specific incident that has occurred during the day and ask God to heal any hurts. I will pray peace over our relationship the next day. I will pray that God gives me the right approach and strategies for dealing with each individual child. I will pray blessing upon their life. Sometimes, it will take awhile to do this, sometimes it will only be very short prayers. Sometimes I will notice a difference the next day if I haven’t prayed, and I stop for a midday prayer session by myself praying for the kids. Often, I don’t know the implications of praying for them, but I do believe with all my heart that holding our kids, and our parenting before God in prayer makes a huge difference in their lives. It also helps me to remember that my children’s lives belong to God. Their lives are his to mold and shape and grow. I am an instrument that He uses to assist this process. But at the end of the day, God is the one in control, and I don’t want it any other way!

I have another five strategies to share with you tomorrow. In the meantime, can you share a strategy you have found effective when dealing with your children’s behaviour? Let’s learn from one another!

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