Does it matter whether your child brushes his teeth before he put his pajamas on, or after? Or whether she goes to school wearing four winter coats, one on top of the other, looking like the Michelin Man? Or that he wants a peanut butter sandwich — and only a peanut butter sandwich — for every lunch for a year?
In truth, none of this matters.
But to the strong-willed child, it all matters. Everything matters. And that can feel exasperating for parents.
The strong-willed child will stand her ground, make her voice heard–and do everything she can think of to control the situation. Especially if she has a plan in mind, or a vision of how the day will go, or a routine she usually sticks to.
Parents of strong-willed children often tell me they wish their child was more laid back. They think it would be easier if the child wasn’t insistent that things needed to be done a certain way (specifically, their way).
But I’m here to tell you: That’s actually a great thing.
There’s no denying that it’s far less convenient to have a child who needs to feel in charge of what they do and how they do it. But the really exciting thing is: You have a child who knows her own mind.
I suggest that parents stop framing their strong-willed child as “difficult.” This simple mindset shift can make all the difference.
Think of your child as a little person who is decisive, able to negotiate, and not afraid to take ownership of her choices. These are all skills we try to teach older children, but for some reason discourage in younger children
The best way to handle a strong-willed child is to empower him. Rather than beg him to “go with the flow,” give him control wherever possible. He wants to wear shorts in the winter? Perfect! Let him choose. She wants to get rid of all of the stuffed animals in her room? Great. go find a box she can fill and store in the basement.
Honor your child’s desire to be in control.
As parents, we have a lot to contend with already. We will be happier parents when we de-escalate power struggles and pick our battles. Most of the time, our strong-willed children are the most sensitive souls. They’re not trying to make our lives more difficult; they’re figuring out how to take care of themselves in a complicated world.
Your strong-willed child may one day end up running a company, or a country. In the meantime, you don’t need to constantly battle them down. Your job can be simply to keep them safe.