Raising a strong-willed child can be a challenge when he or she is young. They might seem overly difficult, stubborn and opinionated. But strong-willed children are also spirited, fun and courageous. They simply want to learn things for themselves instead of accepting what others tell them. They may have a habit of testing boundaries and limits, but it’s because they are strong, passionate and they live life to the fullest.
So how can a parent raise a strong-willed child without discouraging the child’s high energy, persistence and spunk? Here are ten tips for parenting a strong-willed, free-spirited child:
1. Give Them Choices
A free-spirited child will most likely give you a hard time if you state out demands and orders. If you offer choice, your child will be more likely to cooperate because he or she will feel like his or her opinion matters.
2. Let Them Dress Themselves
Your strong-willed child is dying to unleash creativity. Instead of picking out outfits every day, let your child dress on his or her own when you can. It will give a little freedom while teaching self-confidence and independence.
3. Avoid Power Struggles
Establish routines and rules that your child can learn and remember so your child won’t see you as constantly bossy. For example, set a routine bedtime, limit hours of television and make a rule that your child can have one snack after school, then it’s time for homework. If your child knows there are rules and routines in place, your child will be more likely to follow them without a fight.
4. Remember They are Experiential Learners
You can tell a free-spirited child that the stove is hot, but the child will want to see if it’s hot. Unless there is a chance of a serious injury, let your child discover things through experience. Your strong-willed child will test your limits, but that’s how the child will learn.
5. Listen to Them
As the parent, you might assume you know best. But if your child has an opinion, be willing to listen to what he or she has to say. If there’s a disagreement, listening to your strong-willed child’s viewpoint will help you understand what’s making your child oppose you.
6. See Things From Their Point of View
You may think your child is acting stubborn, but from your child’s point of view, they may be justifiably upset. When your child is acting out, consider his or her viewpoint and think about how you would want to be treated.
7. Don’t Push Them Into Opposing You
If you try to force your free-spirited child to do something, he or she will most likely push back and defy you, just to prove a point. Stop, take a breath and remind yourself that winning a battle with your child may only hurt your relationship.
8. Let Them Have Their Own Opinions
You don’t need to prove that you’re right. Set reasonable expectations and rules and enforce them, but don’t try to break your child’s will or force he or she to agree with you. Your child may have to do what you want, but he or she is entitled to have opinions and feelings about it.
9. Let Them Take Charge of Their Own Activities
Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to be difficult or oppose what you say. For example, once you establish your child’s morning routine of getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing his or her teeth, and packing up a backpack, don’t constantly remind your child to perform each step. Let them be, and see what they can remember. If your child forgets something, gently remind him or her and compliment your child on what he or she did remember.
10. Offer Them Respect
Most strong-willed children simply want to be treated with respect and feel like their opinions and feelings truly matter. You may have the urge as a parent to make all of the decisions for your child, but remember that the child will learn to be strong, independent and courageous by forming ideas independently and being allowed to be creative. You can still offer your child respect and empathy while being a great parent and setting limits.