Parenting a strong-willed child is challenging, but there is one crucial key to doing it and doing it well. Click through to find out more.

Parenting a Strong-Willed Child: The key to it all

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Parenting a strong-willed child is full of ups and downs. Find out the key to raising them successfully without breaking their spirit.


“I don’t like you anymore!” is heard as her bedroom door slams.


Or, his hands on his hips, he looks me dead in the eye and declares, “I’m leaving the family!”


They’re heated, hurt, and resorting to anything. Something has not gone their way and they’re expressing how upset they are in a single phrase. Their body language is further underscoring this sentiment. It’s a familiar scenario in my household.


You see, I’m not just parenting a strong-willed child. I’m parenting two of them.


Both my three-year-old and four-year-old are sensitive, have iron-clad determination, are wildly outspoken, and are prone to power struggles. My children are easily upset when their autonomy is imposed upon. They can become rattled easily if an event or experience deviates from their expectations.


For instance, when dinner is something new, their shoes feel funny, or their tower of blocks fails to stack well, they can be quite difficult to deal with.


And, these instances happen often.


Here and there, outsiders will weigh in, mistakenly thinking a good dose of punishment will set my willful children straight. If you too are parenting a strong-willed child, you’re likely nodding your head at all of this.


Of course, submission is not the goal of parenting a strong-willed child. The more research that comes forward on these headstrong, spirited beings, the more we learn that maintaining their spirit is the key to their lifelong success. In fact, it has been found that spirited children are more likely to become strong leaders willing to do the right thing at all costs. One longitudinal study examined children’s characteristics and circumstances as predictors of occupational success. Researchers followed these children from the age of 12 through to the age of 52. They found that children who questioned authority and weren’t obedient were more likely to earn more and be more entrepreneurial than their less spirited counterparts.


Parenting a spirited child: how do you successfully without breaking their spirit?


The key to parenting a strong-willed child comes down to one crucial thing: TRUST. In maintaining a spirited child’s trust, we open them up to understanding and internalizing our values and rules.


So how do we accomplish this?


Positive parenting strategies are key. Below you’ll find some wonderful tips on how to reinforce or re-establish the trust between you and your strong-willed child.


[Related reading: Stop Yelling at Your Kids with This Simple Strategy]

Parenting a strong-willed child is challenging, but there is one crucial key to doing it and doing it well. Click through to find out more. parenting a spirited child, positive parenting tips, parenting without punishment


Best Strategies for Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

Have a predictability about your day-to-day life.

This can be accomplished by having a well-established routine. Or, it can simply be accomplished by letting your child know what the day will look like and what to expect throughout the day. Strong-willed children do not do well when their power is taken away. By having predictability, they feel in control and are less prone to meltdowns.


Provide warnings before changing activities or leaving an event.

There are days, or parts of the day, that are less predictable than others. Giving your child a two-minute warning before leaving or transitioning allows him or her to feel involved in the process and not overtaken by the process.


[Related reading: End Power Struggles With Your Strong-Willed Child]


Set clear expectations.

Like having a routine, setting clear expectations allow a child to know how he or she should act, what they should do, and what isn’t acceptable. It also makes discipline much easier too because he or she will understand that they’ve deviated from expectation.


Follow through on what you say and communicate readily.

Our children need to be able to trust that what we say is what we mean. If they have done wrong, it is important we follow through on discipline. And if plans change, it is important they understand why.


Label their feelings to show you understand even if you don’t agree.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your spirited child is the acknowledgement of how he or she feels. This recognition scaffolds moving forward and creates space to understand the discipline that may follow.


Go with your child when giving a timeout.

With my daughter, this means going into her room with her and hugging her through her big feelings. Then, we talk about what went wrong and how she can make amends. For my son, this is a bit different. I bring him into his room and tell him I am available when he needs me. When he’s really upset, he needs his space. Moreover, he can lash out when he’s angry. Once he is ready for me, we hug and talk it out. Timeouts that isolate the child from the parent do more damage to their relationship than to their bad behaviour. Read more about this here.


Apologise when you parent out of anger.

Yelling, get mad at their crying, or showing other signs of anger can happen to the best of us. Not only does admitting we’ve done wrong model good behaviour, it also re-establishes trust. Yelling can be quite damaging to young children.



Check out these great articles on parenting strong-willed children

20 thoughts on “Parenting a Strong-Willed Child: The key to it all

  1. These were some great tips! Raising spirited children can certainly be challenging, but you made a lot of valid points that will be helpful to any parents with these exceptional kids 🙂

  2. I parented an extremely strong willed child. He is 24 now. I can tell you that he is widely acknowledged to be one of the most respectful, respected, responsible, hard working young man people in our circles know. Raising him was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, over the years, from various people in our lives, I received much of the advice that you give here. Sticking to it, being consistent, changed our relationship from confrontational to trusting, as you’ve said here. There is nothing to make raising this kind of child easy. Even if you have a good relationship. Settle in for the long haul. They are not going to stop being strong willed, but gradually, as they get older and have more autonomy, they will become more settled in their own skin. Getting my son through childhood and through elementary school was just that – getting him through! But, now, 24 years later, I have an extraordinary son, and, in hindsight, it was worth every minute.

    1. Thank you so much for your perspective on parenting a strong-willed child. It’s so nice to hear from someone who’s seen it through and can speak to how hard, but great it is. Many thanks again.

    2. I love this. I also could have written it! My strong willed son also was quite the work out. But work we did! The biggest challenge I faced was the constant pressure from others to join them and to leave my son’s “side”. They never succeeded and I’m sure they spent plenty of time imagining how poorly it would turn out for my willful son and his “pushover” mommy. I literally wish they, everyone of them, could see him now. He is twenty 27. He was on the dean’s list for all of his college career and got his degree. He held actuary job with the state and a prominent computer company. When that wasn’t what he dreamed it would be he left and is now a commercial pilot. Expect great things from kids like this. And never, ever, let someone else tell you who your child is.

      1. Wow! I cannot thank you enough for this comment. I love how you described the pressure to leave your son’s side and join those who wanted you to be more severe. Love!!!

    1. I always strive to apologise for raising my voice or parenting our of anger too. It isn’t easy parenting young kids, that’s for sure. Thanks so much for reading <3

  3. We found out early on that we need to give warnings about transitions. Even now that our four kids are 6 years old, it is helpful for them. I love your advice to label feelings. It gives kids an understanding and acceptance of the way they feel.

  4. I LOVE this post and I can totally relate. But I think I’m failing right at tip #1 haha! Every day is a little different for us, some days I teach or now train clients, some days I’m off and she has dance or gymnastics. I’ve never been great at giving her a routine. I do always apologize when I parent out of anger, or lose my temper when I know she’s just being a toddler and I’m not having a good day. Either way parenting can be so hard! Amazing, but hard!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting and relating to this post about parenting a strong-willed child. Like you, I’m not one for much of a routine either. The kids being in preschool and kindergarten respectively have made our days more predictable. One thing I strive to do is let the kids know what the day will look like and what will come next as it happens.

  5. Our daughter was 4 hours old when I saw what she was capable of. I was a cop and dad is a natural manager, so there’s no will in her genes.

    We give choices as much as possible, she chooses her own outfit for school picture day, but if she is totally wrong, we have the solution at hand with no “I told you so”, she learns best this way. For example her not wanting to wear a coat on a nice sunny day, with the temp at -4°C – I let her out without the coat, but had it ready when she asked for it, like I knew she would. She also wore pajamas to school and clothes to bed for over a year, but she was happy and followed the rules – appropriate for the weather, and bits covered.

    We save the stern voice and “you WILL”, for those times they are actually required, like safety or medication. This approach has a lower rate of head-to-head battles, because we don’t MAKE her do something unless it’s necessary (and we tell her that).

    We figure there will be lots of time to fight later.

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