Do you have a strong-willed child? Then you
are in luck. Most strong-willed children are a handful, but when they are
sensitively parented, they turn out to be a blessing with an icing on the cake.
Nature, as it would have it, isn’t always perfect and the ability of children
to be self-motivated, confident, determined, and goal-oriented is determined by
the environment they grow up in. Proper parenting has to be directed at
grooming children to become extra confident and self-assured to handle
challenges and problems at home and in school.
Who exactly can be
classified as a strong-willed child?
That child who is a handful, is always here
and there, and is vivacious and full of life or that child most parents refer
to as being “difficult”, “stubborn”, or even “troublesome” can be termed
strong-willed because of their dogged pattern of behaviour which is very hard
to shut down. These are usually self-assured, are extremely conscious of their
environment, are always observing and looking at the adults with such keen
focus in a bid to imitate them, and are usually very smart in internalizing
things they have learnt in their environment.
Does your child exhibit bossy behaviour,
always acting “tough” and in charge? Then you have got a very strong-willed
character. Or is he always looking to control his peers to follow his lead and
get them in line? That’s a child who might naturally be a born leader.
On the flip side, you might be in constant
arguments with that child; either he is refusing to wear his orange t-shirt and
opting for the white coloured one which is dirty, or is he always running all
over the place, kicking things and turning the home upside down. Remember to
take a deep breath and don’t allow your four-year-old child to make you act
like a four old as well.
What should you know
about strong-willed children?
Strong-willed children aren’t just being
difficult. Parents and teachers need to stop using disciplinary methods at
every excuse. Strong-willed children aren’t naturally rebellious. They just
want you to win their trust; they don’t want you exerting your power and
authority at every opportunity. They want you to convince them that what you
want them to do is the right thing. They want to see what you see as well so
that they can cooperate freely and not by coercion. They want you to teach them
to believe that you have their best interests at heart.
Definitely, all parents want children who
listen to and acknowledge them, but you don’t want to raise a child who would
follow every whim of someone older just because he wants to be obedient and
cooperative, even when that older person might be wrong. The legendary musical
icon Fela, in one of his popular songs, said: “Teacher,
don’t teach me nonsense”. This was very right because not everything being
taught is right. For this reason, we should try not to shut out the ability of
our children to ask questions and probe deep into details of things they don’t
know about. Don’t be a parent who just sheepishly wants his child to be blindly
obedient as this would limit their ability to think and they become so dull
that they swallow everything thrown at them hook, line and sinker and lose
their ability to be insightful and intelligent.
This is why it is important to not only raise
disciplined children but ones that take responsibility and are discerning to
know who to trust and who to be influenced by. Otherwise, you would have
problems as a parent in raising children who are self-disciplined, respectful
Little wonder why it is difficult changing the
mind or will of strong-willed children. But eventually, when parents forcibly
make them submissive through punishment, as is common in this part of the
world, it leaves them open to external influences. Because you have forced the
child to succumb and be obedient by force, he might have lost his instincts to
question or probe such influences. Strong-willed children are often found using
terms such as “my mummy said …” or “my daddy said …” This is because they are
convinced and trust your decision as a parent. But for children who have been
forced, they just dance to any tune or influence.
How do you raise a
balanced child who would still be strong-willed and also listen to you?
The following are some tips you can follow:
- Strong-willed children
are experiential learners: They don’t believe in things they can’t see proof of
and be convinced of it. They would always stand on their point until you as a
parent, convince them. Instead of trying to control or force them, be more practical;
they only want to learn.
- Your strong-willed
child wants mastery of everything: They usually want to do things by themselves
so don’t be the controlling parents. Just have a pattern. Maybe in the morning
before school, you usually brush her teeth and she always tries to collect the
brush to do it herself, don’t struggle with her. Allow her to do things
herself. Gradually she would do it better and move on to wearing her clothes
and packing her school bag as well, one step at a time. Strong-willed children
become independent and take responsibility earlier than other children.
- Avoid power struggles
by using rules and routines: Have a pattern at home. For instance, you could
draft a schedule with lights off by 9 pm, homework should be done immediately
after meals when they come back from school … Come up with routines specific to
your home that they can get used to and work with. With time they would embrace
it even more than you.
- Discipline through
relationship not through punishment: Kids don’t learn anything when you are
always coercing and forcing them to bend to your will. They only please you
because they fear punishment, and this is a wrong approach to making children
learn things or do what you want. Have a relationship of talking to children; this
will help them to gradually learn subconsciously because most times children
won’t do what you want but what you do is what they would take after.
- See things from their
point of view: Strong-willed children don’t joke with promises and gifts and
the moment you repeatedly lie to them about it, they might become offended. To
you, it might seem that they are being rebellious, but to them, they are only
asking you to be a promise keeper; the same way an adult wouldn’t want to be
lied to, that’s the same way they might react to such. Best way to handle it to
talk to them, apologize to them and make sure to make up for it.
In conclusion, strong-willed children grow up
to be confident, self-assertive and goal-oriented adults but good parents build
them to be even better. Parents need to know that breaking and submitting a
strong-willed child isn’t always the answer and as such, strong-willed children
need to be trained in a different approach that wouldn’t rid them of this
wonderful nature of theirs.