Because parenting a strong-willed child is so dynamic and challenging, parents need comprehensive ways to effectively parent. Unfortunately, online articles with simple solutions aren’t enough for such bright children that are prone to power struggles. Below, you will find the best parenting books for parenting strong-willed children while maintaining their spirit.
“Mama, I know you’re just going to say no, but hear me out.”
I took in the deepest breath my lungs could handle and turned away from my computer. I knew I was going to need all my energy for whatever was coming.
“Let’s hear it,” I said.
“I want another cookie.” My six-year-old’s request may seem innocent enough. But she had already had cookies and I had already been clear that would be the last cookie of the day.
I also braced myself because this was the umpteenth time my daughter failed to take what I had said at face value. My whole life parenting this child is marked by negotiation attempts.
“Can I have just one more show?”
“Can I have five more minutes?”
“Nana and grandpa bought you a puppy and you won’t even buy me this toy!”
(For the record, my parents got me a puppy when I was double her age. But that didn’t deter her from trying to use it as a bargaining chip.)
I braced myself because, not only does my spirited child tests boundaries often, she also doesn’t take it too kindly when I say no. When I tell her, “I’m not negotiating,” she usually gets upset. She cries, continues to attempt to bargain, or tells me I’m mean and storms out of the room.
It should come as no surprise I’m parenting a strong-willed child
My daughter is a textbook strong-willed child. She’s bright and prone to power struggles. She knows what she wants and is tenacious to a fault.
In our first parent-teacher conference, her kindergarten joked, “Your daughter is after my job!” This year, her teacher told us, “She’s a born leader. She will be successful as long as she understands how to listen to and understand others perspectives.”
Oh, yes! We knew all too well how adamant our daughter can be and how she struggles when things don’t go her way.
Unquestionably, I admire my daughter’s conviction and am grateful that as she gets older, she won’t be swayed from her principles. I am also proud to raise a leader.
In the meantime, however, both my husband and I find our patience is tested quite often and there is no autopilot. Not only that, but parenting our strong-willed child isn’t as easy as finding a great parenting article online and executing that one tip. It’s much more involved and requires a lot of perspective.
Our greatest tools have come from reading some of the best parenting books for strong-willed children. In my experience, the best approach to reading these parenting books is to:
- read a couple of chapters,
- set the book(s) aside,
- execute what you’ve learned from those chapters, then
- resume reading.
Currently, I have three of these ‘best parenting books’ on the go. I have them in different places in the house to pick up when I feel like reading.
Parenting a strong-willed child. This is the one book I won’t recommend.
A simple google or amazon search for the best parenting books for parenting a strong-willed child, and you will immediately come across one book I won’t recommend. The book by Dr. James Dobson, The New Strong-Willed Child, advocates the use of corporal punishment in the face of research. On this blog, I won’t endorse any act that harms a child nor any disciplinary measure that isn’t consistent with the best of my research.
That said, these are the best parenting books because they are founded on sound behavioural research. Additionally, I have used the strategies discussed in these books. I find each book provides more insight into child behaviour while bringing more peace to our family.
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The best parenting books for strong-willed children
These parenting books are in no particular order but are all worth their weight in gold. All of these books are focused on teaching a child to listen and adopt our values (as opposed to threatening or bribing them into listening).
The Boston Globe aptly named this book “the parenting bible.” Authors, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlich are experts in parent-child communication. The strategies they suggest are simple and illustrated with a number of relatable examples. There are also sections to reflect on your own family and even write down your perceptions.
This book is an easy read. In addition, I love how the authors suggest reading a segment at a time, putting the book down and then applying the principles. If you’re like me, you’ll catch yourself making mistakes. But, applying the tips make the approach a bit more digestible.
Related reading: The Surprising Strategy That Will Get Your Kids to Listen Better
Don’t let the title deter you. This book isn’t just meant for parents of explosive children but also children who are chronically inflexible. Throughout the pages of this book, clinical psychologist Dr. Ross Greene addresses a revolutionary approach of how to address a child’s difficult behaviour. Instead of looking at behaviour is a choice, he prompts parents and educators to look at the child’s struggles as lagging skills. Then, he provides a systematic approach to addressing these lagging skills as to help the child.
Related reading: The Best Way to Improve Your Child’s Most Difficult Behaviour
What I love about this book is it addresses common contentious moments – such as turning off the TV, eating and doing chores. It illustrates an approach that increases cooperation and curiosity in our kids and decreases their resistance.
If you’re not dealing with issues of sibling rivalry, it might be best to purchase Dr. Laura Markham’s original book, Peaceful Parents Happy Kids. This book is it walks through simple but powerful ways to connect with your kids and how it will help children listen better and fight less. For example, she talks about offering kids a minimum of ten minutes each day to do whatever they want with you. She also walks through how to execute time-ins better than any other resource I’ve read. These strategies have helped me:
- stay calm in the heat of the moment,
- spend more quality time with my kids (decreasing power struggles), and
- drop ultimatums from my parenting.
Below are all of the books I recommended including others based on research and the best parenting practices.
As is the case with every aspect of parenting, there is no such thing as a quick fix or a cure-all. My daughter still tries to get one more cookie or one more show. But the bargaining isn’t perpetual and she is becoming more reasonable. These books have equipped me to parent my strong-willed child peacefully. They have also helped empower me when I otherwise feel unsure. I hope you find value in them too.