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If your child is very stubborn or downright frustrating, you’re probably raising a strong-willed child. Strong-willed children are determined to live life on their own terms. And any parent who has had this encounter with their own child, or someone they know, it can be very frustrating. Nothing is more so than a small 2-year-old who has more sass than you ever had, and doesn't want to listen to you for anything.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing though. There are a lot of benefits of having a child who is strong-willed. Characteristics that will help them as they get older and start to navigate the world of adulthood. If you're raising a strong-willed child, or aren't sure if you are, here are 16 of the top characteristics of a strong-willed child.
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Strong-willed kids like to be in charge. Despite the fact that you’re the parent and the one who pays all the bills, this child will find it hard to let lead her. Kindly remind her of her familial role and how she needs to respect her parents and trusted people in authority.
You can be sure that if they’re bossing you around, they’re most likely doing the same thing to their teachers and peers; and eventually she’ll be labeled as a problem child. As her parent, encourage her individuality, but remind her there’s a place and time to stand out. Other times, she may need to follow the rules. Help her to understand which times call for which behaviors.
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Most kids throw a fit or tantrum at some point when they want to get their way, but strong-willed children take their tantrums to their next level. Their outbursts are more intense and last longer because they have a harder time managing their emotions. They kick, scream, and become violent if they don’t get their way. You can teach them to calm themselves by using deep breathing techniques, listening to calming music, counting to 10 etc.
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If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a child who wants to argue all day, no matter what the topic, it’s not a fun place to be. Once a strong-willed child has buckled down on a certain idea/belief, there’s rarely anything that can convince them otherwise. They’re so persistent, and great debaters who won’t back down – even if their opponent is bigger/stronger than them.
In the future, these qualities may be perceived as admirable, but while your children are young, it can be really frustrating trying to deal with their defiance. The best way to appease any power struggles with your child is to agree to disagree but stand firm on your expectations concerning their behavior. If your child is debating their need for you to buy them something, offer to let them earn the item (thru good behavior) rather than receiving it immediately. Present it as a choice so that they can feel empowered and you can gain compliance. It’s a win-win.
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Imagine a child who constantly asks you for something when you’ve already said no. This is what a strong-willed child is like – times 3. Once they get an idea in their heads, they won’t let it go, because they tend to fixate on things.
You can try and negotiate or debate with them on why they don’t need that $50 Spiderman toy, but once they’re locked in on an idea, there’s no backing down. They may even have a tantrum, and you already know how bad those can be. Pick and choose your battles, but stick to your promises and ultimatums. Otherwise your SWC will know you’re not consistent and will try to run over you to get what they want.
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Waiting is like the kiss of death for strong-willed children. They want what they want, when they want it. Most times, they have trouble with impulse control. They hate waiting because they feel like they’re missing something. This may be the reason they skip their peers’ turns in games or jump to the head of the line during school transitions.
Getting these children to pause and be considerate of others can be quite the feat. Depending on how stubborn you child is, it could take a while before your child is able to master their impatience. You can help by practicing the act of waiting during a board game or using a timer to see who can wait the longest. There are endless ways to practice any skill – if you’re creative.
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Heaven help you if you and your child disagree on something they really want and you’re out in public. Not only are tantrums a given, but the things your kid might say may have you wondering if this is the same sweet child you gave birth to.
Strong-willed children will test and push all the buttons you know and don’t know about. If they know you’re sensitive about your weight, expect to be called a “fatty”. If you’re a dad with thinning hair, expect them to call you out on it. Children can be cruel and when they’re mad… it’s no holds barred. So get used to the insults and NOT letting those words get to you.
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Sometimes your perception of what your child deserves is COMPLETELY different than what they think they deserve. SWCs struggle with reasoning beyond their thoughts and desires. Though they may not NEED the candy they want because it makes them hyper and super-talkative, they definitely WANT that candy bar, and will argue with you until you give in. Their perception of what’s fair hinges on what they can get out of a situation.
Rewards and positive reinforcements are their middle names. If you can use a reward system to show them which types of behavior warrant the rewards they want, this can help clear up future misunderstandings. Just don’t expect perfect behavior right away. All good things take time!
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Reading this title… it seems this one applies to most kids. If a child doesn’t want to listen, he won’t. Telling a strong-willed child to clean up his rooms or use his listening ears is usually something he’ll ignore. But let his good behavior GET him something in return, and you may discover an obedient child has emerged. Kids love to tune you out, and you have to set the ground rules for listening and following directions. If you didn’t, better late than never. If your child ignores you when you ask him to do something, let him know there will be consequences i.e. taking away privileges or not getting rewards. Make sure to follow up on the consequences as needed. This is the best way to teach your child that what you say has value and that you MEAN what you say.
Some kids are intimidated/bullied by other kids who appear to be stronger or smarter. This is rarely the case for strong-willed kids. They are usually the leaders of their group. If not, they are the rebel who doesn’t NEED a group to feel empowered. They run their own show, and don’t worry ALOT about peer pressure. SWCs, like other kids, want to be socially accepted, but they like to be accepted as the leader of the group. They will usually be the ones in charge and will find friends quickly. This is something most parents admire -- as long as their SWC isn’t bullying another child or being disrespectful.
Most of the time, you’ll find that a strong-willed child is exceptionally smart. They’ll be the ones the teachers praise for helping out in class and completing assignments ahead of time. Strong-minded kids will often face their challenges head-on eventually rendering them obsolete. These kids surpass their goals, and their persistence propels them above to succeed. So before you go thinking it's all bad to have a child who sticks to their grounds, know that they probably will do well later on in life.
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Strong-willed kids can switch from one mood to the next much faster than most kids. They feel their emotions in a deep intense way, and find it very hard to self-regulate. One minute they may be sweet and obedient, and the next, they may be throwing a tantrum or highly irritable. But as a parent, you can help your child be more aware of their emotions and how it affects them. Strong-willed children need their parents to help them control their emotions and cope with them in a constructive way.
You can create cards that display different emotions and encourage your child to use them to let others know how they feel. If your child is feeling angry, he can show the “anger card” and ask if he can have some time to himself to calm down.
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You may have had everything all planned out before you had kids; and even OVER-prepared by reading lots of parenting books and talking to your parent-friends. You knew parenting wouldn’t be easy, but you felt assured that your plans would get you through the rough patches. Boy, were you wrong! LOL.
Kids with strong personalities baffle even the most experienced parents. Why is it your first child was calm and happy, but your second child is often anxious and combative? Why does it take him 20 minutes to calm down versus your first child’s 5 minutes? Sorry to tell you… but what works for one child may not necessarily work for the other. As a parent, you have to continuously adjust your parenting techniques to suit each child and situation.
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The strong-willed child can be very independent, be super-smart and very popular at school, but at the end of the day, he/she may only want some quality time with mom or dad. These children value one-on-one time with their parents, and enjoy being the center of attention. They want to know how much you value them and feel secure in that bond. Don’t forget to let them know they are loved. Raise them to be compassionate and perhaps they’ll agree to only use their SWC negotiation skills for good and not evil. 😊
There is a phase in parenting where they drive their parents into a need for a nap because they keep asking "why." That's to be expected during a certain age and while it's fun... kind of, it can be even more draining in a strong-willed child. Why (LOL)? Because these kids like to ask it about everything. They need to know what a decision was made, not just because you said so. If they don't understand something about the world -- they ask. And they learn from it, too.
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There is something that has frustrated parents from the beginning of time and that's the typical child that only wants to do what they want. If you are some kind of unknown parenting magical unicorn who hasn't come across a child who does this, even just on occasion, you're lucky. If you have a strong-willed child you know all too well that kids with this characteristic only want to do what they want, when they want, and there is nothing up for discussion. It's exhausting, but it's not the worst thing -- it's good for their brains, as long as they're not trying to jump off a bridge or something.
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Parents are often stressed out about milestones and hitting those moving goals that we take way too literally. The problem with this is that when our kids don't hit that, or when they struggle, we automatically get worried. The funny thing about strong-willed children is that no matter how smart and prepared and awesome they are at whatever it is they're trying to do -- they won't until they are ready. That's it, with no leeway. Strong-willed children do things on their own timeline whether that's getting up to clean their room like you asked 3 hours ago... or finally figure out how to wipe their own butt.