How to Keep Your Cool with a Strong-Willed Child Read it later

Raising a strong-willed child can be challenging. Their intense emotions and stubbornness can push your buttons and test your patience. However, staying calm and responding wisely is key to guiding them to become resilient, confident adults. This article provides tips for parents and foster carers on keeping your cool when faced with a strong-willed child. 

Understand Where It Comes From

Strong will is not necessarily a negative trait. It demonstrates a child who knows their own mind and wants to assert themselves. However, if not channelled positively, it can result in frequent conflict. Strong will often indicates a sensitive, spirited child who struggles with big emotions. They may have difficulty regulating their feelings and behaviour. For foster children, early experiences of trauma, loss or inconsistency can also impact development. Understanding the root causes can help you respond with empathy rather than anger. Stay curious about what lies beneath the behaviour.

Choose Your Battles

Strong-willed kids often baulk at rules and expectations. This can tempt you to come down hard to force compliance. But being rigid and controlling breeds resentment and rebellion. Not every rule is worth fighting over. Let the small stuff go to save your energy for what matters. Does it really make a difference if your child wears mismatched socks or eats pizza with their fingers? Save corrections for safety issues or repeated issues. Learn which buttons to push and which to avoid.

Offer Choices

Giving some control can reduce power struggles. Provide choices to direct your child’s strong will towards positive ends. “Would you like to do your homework before or after dinner?” or “Would you like to wear your red or blue shirt today?” pits their will against themselves rather than against you. Having options helps strong-willed kids feel empowered and cooperative. Carefully structure the choices so that any option is acceptable to you.

Stay Calm

When tensions rise, your ability to stay calm in the storm can defuse or escalate the situation. Breathe deeply, keep your voice quiet and your physical movements controlled. Speak gently but firmly. Getting heated or punitive will just add fuel to the fire of their emotions. Model the self-control you want your child to exhibit. Staying calm also allows you to act thoughtfully rather than impulsively in the moment.

Add Structure and Consistency

Strong-willed children thrive on routines and consistency. Make expectations clear and enforce limits calmly but firmly. Warn of the consequences and then follow through appropriately. For example, “Remember our rule is no screen time until the chores are done. You can try again after lunch.” Don’t make empty threats or repeatedly give in once limits are set. Sticking to routines provides security and teaches self-discipline.

Seek Support

Raising a strong-willed child can often leave you feeling isolated, overwhelmed and defeated. Seek support from other parents and carers who work with fostering agencies who can empathise and offer tips. Work as a team with your partner, taking breaks when tensions run high. Counselling is also recommended to equip you with parenting strategies tailored to your child. With help and perseverance, you will find ways to channel that iron will to create positive change.

Focus on the Positives

The challenges of stubbornness and emotional intensity are just one side of the coin. A strong-willed child is also passionate, spirited, strong and perceptive. When harnessed well, their will becomes determination to achieve, stand up for others and advocate for themselves. Rather than suppressing their will, guide it wisely. With firmness and empathy, your strong-willed child can develop self-discipline and direction. Their inner resilience will then be a gift, not a curse.

Dealing with a strong-willed child requires much patience, wisdom and self-control. But by understanding the root causes and focusing on the positives, you can help them direct their inner strength to blossom and thrive.