Keep Calm And Parent On!
Parenting the Strong-Willed Child
Regular Contributor, Calvalyn Day, shares tips on raising a strong-willed child.
This morning on the way to school, Leila, that’s my five year old, told me that the trees were naked.
She meant that the leaves had fallen off. After a particularly windy fall evening, which I love, she noticed that on the same route we always take that the trees were different.
I love this little girl. This is her telling me which shoes she wanted for back to school a couple years ago.
She’s amazingly creative and intuitive and observant.
She also happens to be quite strong willed.
When this Washington Post article came across my feed earlier this week, about the benefits of having a strong-willed child, I clicked it, partially because I generally agree with it. And, partially because I am always looking for more ways of supporting Leila’s healthy development and acquiring ammunition for those who haven’t quite taken to the whole “children should have rights” thing. I love how the article highlights the fact that many of our most successful entrepreneurs are, in fact, free thinking, never take no for an answer type people, and that these traits are actually skills.
Now, I know what many of us are saying. These kids need discipline, structure and routine. If we let them run wild, they’ll get hurt or take advantage of us. And this is partially true, there are absolutely times when we, as parents, have to bite the bullet and lay down the law. I wrote about that a few weeks ago in an article I shared with the Huffington Post about life with my teenagers. But, what I loved most about this article was that it really challenged us to look at how simple obedience, without question, can have disastrous consequences, and that pushing our children to always comply may not be the best course of action.
As a mom of a strong-willed child and an advocate for peaceful parenting, here are a couple of tips that I have found to be helpful to enjoying life with kids who don’t mind giving you a no for an answer.
Pick your battles. Would you rather he wear the blue pants, but he wants the green? Of course. But, will that actually make or break the family dinner? Nope. So, save your energy for when he wants to wear swim shorts in the snow. Yes, he won’t match perfectly, and no you don’t have to make everyone change to suit his tastes, this will just be a day you don’t match. No harm, no foul.
Give them a chance to explain. The awesome thing about strong-willed kids is that they often see the world differently than the rest of us. It’s amazing and exactly the kind of thing that could make them a millionaire one day. Sometimes they want to explain things so you understand what it’s like in their head. What an awesome opportunity to help them feel closer to you, while also giving you a chance to share what it’s like in your head too. This helps build empathy, and it’s a trait that strong-willed kids might need help mastering. When Leila was about 4-years-old, she wrote our address this way.
At the time, we lived on Shallow Water Place. Get it? Shallow WATER. This made perfect sense in her head, and without asking her, I might not have known that. I love getting to see the inner workings of her brain.
QTIP. Quit taking it personal. Other people may not understand your child. They will give you that mommy guilt like nobody’s business, but at the end of the day, your value as a parent has nothing to do with whether or not your son wants his hair cut, or your daughter is wearing a matching outfit. Don’t take your child’s strong-willed nature personally, nor the judgement you may get when others don’t understand.
Protect her heart. Some people still believe that kids with strong personalities need to be “broken” like a wild horse. They don’t appreciate the unique characteristics of these kids, and they may overstep their bounds to help you by giving their personal opinions. The truth is, strong-willed doesn’t mean that the child doesn’t have feelings, or that they can’t get their feelings hurt. In fact, sometimes, theses children feel things very deeply and are pained when people try to silence them. Don’t let your head-strong child, get her heart broken for the sake of compliance.
If you’ve got a strong-willed child, hit me on Facebook, and let me know what you love, or don’t love about the experience. Parenting is hard, and we all need a safe space to share.
Visit Calvalyn at her blog, Indy Parent Coach!
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Contact Lorelai at Lorelai@LifeWithLorelai.com