As a toddler your child took his first steps towards independence. Now that he’s a preschooler he’s discovered that not only can he be independent, but that making his own choices is his decided preference. While that bid for independence is age-appropriate, it can be difficult for you to adjust to, especially if your child is strong-willed. Circle of Moms members who have kids with this temperament really struggle at this juncture because their preschoolers' desire to be in charge is so intense.
They say you'll know you have a strong-willed child when you find yourself struggling to teach him that he's not in charge of everything. Others say it's obvious from birth: the second of Kimberly L.'s daughters is more strong-willed than any of her sisters, and this mom of five says that she it was clear from the day she was born.
What worked for Kimberly was getting down to her daughter’s eye level when listening and keeping in mind that every child is different. “While she may be different than how I would like her to be [I have to ] remember I am raising an individual,” Kimberly shares.
While Kimberly discovered early on how to work with her strong-willed child, many mom struggle to figure it out and need a little help. Here are some of the ways Circle of Moms members have found to deal with their strong-willed children.
1. Teach the Behavior You Want
One of the most important things moms remind each other is that children don’t just know how you want them to act, they have to be shown. “Teach the behavior you want,” is Suzanne’s advice.
Stina B. does this by rephrasing her 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son’s requests. “When they request something of me rudely, I answer them with how they should have asked. Then I wait,” she says. What she is waiting for is for them to take cues from her modeling appropriate behavior.
2. Offer Rewards
Some moms liken rewarding good behavior to bribery, but others swear by it as a way for dealing with a strong-willed child.
Erin B. uses a reward program with her four children. “They earn money for doing good stuff and they pay me for doing bad stuff,” she says.
For Erin it works well, but mom Emma D. cautions it doesn’t always catch on right away. Her son started out slowly, “but when he realized there were rewards for listening,” she says she began to see an improvement.
3. Redirect Attention
Don’t underestimate the power of redirection. Whether it be redirecting the conversation, as mother of three, Abbie A. recommends, or trying to redirect your child’s attention to something else entirely, as Michele C. suggests, preschoolers are still young enough to lose interest in a battle when something more interesting comes along.
4. Give Choices and Guidance
For many strong-willed children, getting what they want is not nearly as important as being able to feel like they have some control. According to the Circle of Moms communities, there’s more than one way to give them some of the control they’re craving.
Jessica S. discovered using a positive discipline system that focuses less on control and more on guiding her son works great. “We’re all less stressed, “ she reports.
Tamara R. works on finding ways to say “yes” more often, while Eleanor S. extols the value of giving her daughter choices. “Give two choices, even if it is walk or be carried,” she says. “This still gives her some control.”
5. Wait Out the Tantrum Storm
If you truly have a strong-willed child, then you know that strong will bring strong tantrums. Once a tantrum is in full force, it’s nearly impossible to reason with your child. Sometimes, say many mothers, the best thing you can do is simply wait out the storm.
Maenad W. says of her strong-willed daughter that "Trying to interrupt the tantrum ALWAYS made it worse. The best strategy seemed to be to give her a little space.” Michelle B. agrees, pointing out that talking to her daughter when she is angry just causes her child to shout more.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t deal with the issue once the storm has passed. There’s an overall agreement among moms that under any circumstances a calm conversation and tone of voice can help to resolve a number of issues. It helps a strong-willed child regain emotional control, feel like she’s having some say in the conversation and be a part of reaching a satisfactory solution to a problem.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.