“Raising a Leader is Twice as Hard”
I ran across this phrase the other day and it got me thinking about my little leader in the making.
Sure, I know we all like to think that our kids will grow up and be the “leader of the pack,” but let me tell ya – when you have a strong-willed child, there is no question about it.
I look at her and just know that she will be doing her own thing, she already is (or trying to at least).
And, as tiring as it is to have a strong-willed child, I admire her in so many ways – because I am nothing like her.
I wish I was. But, truth is, I’m not. I have never been the one to eagerly raise my hand in class, or speak up for myself, or even tell the tattoo artist that I don’t like her design (YES, that happened and now I have been stuck with this lovely heart/hibiscus thing on my hip for almost 10 years now…).
My point is, this is all new to me.
I don’t know how to raise a strong-willed child into a successful adult leader, because I am not one.
Now, my husband on the other hand, HE is where she gets it from. He understands her, laughs at her frustrations, and blows off her comments. I guess because he gets it.
But for me, I feel like I am in a constant battle.
I don’t want to hinder her leadership skills, but I don’t want to condone her aggressively opinionated ideas. I often feel like I am stuck on a teeter-totter. Do I let her be or face the wrath of a soon-to-be battle?
It’s taken me 6 years, a lot of research, and a lot of prayers to come up with this list – but I have put together 13 tips that help me in raising this beautiful creature we call strong-willed.
Now, please understand, I have not perfected ANY of these tips. I am still learning myself. Heck, it’s only been 6 years! It feels like forever, but, then again, it doesn’t.
And, to be honest, many times it’s hard to remember “tips” when you are thrown into reality. But there are times when you can think back to these ideas – and they make a world of difference.
13 Tips on Raising a Strong Willed Child
Give them choices
- Anyone with a strong-willed child knows that they like to feel as if they are in control. Now, can we really allow this as good parents? Eh, not really. But can we give off the illusion that they have control over a situation, without really giving it to them? Sure. You can do this by giving them choices (“Do you want to clean up your clothes first or your toys?”). When they feel like they are in control of their actions, they feel like they have freedom – which is half of what they always seem to be fighting for.
Stick to a routine
- Like we’ve discussed, strong-willed children like to feel in control. When they know what to expect, when to expect it, and what to do they have a sense of security. That is why having a routine for them is so important, even simple routines (wake up – eat – brush teeth – get dressed – out the door). I know with my daughter, anytime we deviate from our “normal” she always makes sure that I notice, ” Mom, we didn’t pray before we left.” “Mom, we ALWAYS feed the cat first.” “Mom, it was my turn to pick out breakfast.” Whatever it is that we strayed from, she’s the first to notice and the first to set me straight. She’s older now, so this doesn’t cause “tantrums,” but when she was younger it would have caused major meltdowns.
Pick your battles
- Oh, so much easier said than done, but it’s true. There are so many potential battles with strong-willed children; don’t spend your whole time arguing with them. Did you tell her to wear her tennis shoes and she has on cowboy boots instead? Let it slide… Now, I don’t mean to let them get away with things all the time. They need rules and boundaries. But they don’t need for you to bicker with them about every little thing. It’s exhausting for you isn’t it? It is for them too.
Understand what sets them off
- If you can pick up on the little things that seem to set them off and avoid them, kudos to you! Often times, at least with my daughter, there are such little things that can set her off that, if I’m not paying close attention to, I would never have known. For instance, her brother (haha). Poor thing, he’s just always thrown in the middle. But, if I am across the house and I ask him to go ask her to do something –KABOOM– it’s all over. I guess because she feels like he is getting some kind of upper hand on her and she does NOT like that at all. But now that I understand this, I try to avoid that as much as I can. Just to eliminate WWIII in our house… So, if you can pinpoint some of these triggers and avoid them, you are likely able to survive another day with a few less grey hairs (;
Wait the “tantrums” out
- Now, the tantrums we are dealing with at 6 and the ones we dealt with at 3 are vastly different, but they still are tantrums none-the-less. Often times when these situations occur you can ask them to leave the room and come back when they are done. Of course, they will stomp off and make a big, dramatic exit; but, after spending time to cool down, 9/10 they will be able to come back to you and listen to what you have to say. Giving them the option to come back when they feel like they are ready, once again, gives them that feeling of control over the situation and helps calm them down.
Set limits and follow through
- This is very important with strong-willed children. They, for some God-given reason, are naturally wired to test our limits and authority. It’s just what they do. And if you do not have clear limits with consequences that you follow through with, it just shows them that they are in control not you. Which is definitely NOT a good thing! Plus, as much as they push and try to have that control, they long for that person to hold them down and accountable. They need the consistency of rules and consequences. When they know what will happen if they do not obey, they are less likely to do it.
Don’t hound them
- This can tie in with picking your battles. Constantly nagging them about how they are acting, what they are doing wrong, or anything else can break even the strongest spirit. And that’s not our job as parents of strong-willed children. It’s not our job to break them. It’s our job to help guide them. Be upfront and clear with what you expect from them. Give them clear, concise instructions. Make them aware of the consequences. And do it all one time. They will remember, trust me. They’re smart.
Listen to what they have to say
- Don’t forget, this isn’t a one-way street. Allow them the ability to tell you how they feel or offer an alternative idea (half of the time, my daughter’s ideas are way better than mine… it’s embarrassing really lol). If your strong-willed child is anything like mine, they love to talk. Listen to what they have to say. You never know, maybe that’s why they’ve been acting out today, because they haven’t felt heard.
- We are their parents, not to tear them down, but to build them up. Praise them for the things they do right. Sure, there are many things they need to work on; they’re human, just like us (we have MANY more years over them and are still working on ourselves). A little praise can go a long way for strong-willed children. To see that you are noticing what they are doing right, not only encourages them to do it again, but it pushes them towards doing good for positive attention rather than doing bad. Remember, for a child, attention is attention – good or bad. If they feel like they are not getting any, they will do whatever it takes – like push your buttons.
Change your perspective
- Sometimes, it’s as simple as changing your own perspective. Is their newly clean room now a wreck with clothes all over the floor? Possibly. Could it be because they have been meticulously picking out their outfit for tomorrow? Thank them for taking that step out of your morning routine for you and remind them that we can do this without making such a mess. Instead of focusing on what may be wrong in a situation, look at it from a different angle, from their perspective. Were they really trying to bother you or are you only looking at it from your end?
Change your language
- The way you talk to a child speaks volumes, especially for strong-willed children. Your tone, your words, even your expressions all add up to them. Try to change it up; I bet you’ll be able to tell a difference. Instead of demanding, “Go feed the cat!” you can say, “Would you mind helping me by feeding the cat?” Most children love to offer help, they feel productive and useful. Experiment with your words and the way you talk. You may be surprised how much this little change can impact their reaction to a situation.
- Because it’s okay. You’re not the only one raising a strong-willed child and you’re not the first. Other parents have done it and lived; and so can you (; Your day with them may not have gone as planned, but as long as you were able to put them to bed feeling loved and secure – you’re doing something right. Heck, I bet you are doing so much better than you even think! So just breathe, because you were given this child for a reason.
Pray for them
- Pray for your strong-willed child. A strong-willed child can turn into a wonderful leader, with the right guidance; pray for that guidance. Do not only pray for your child, but pray for yourself. Ask for your own guidance and wisdom in raising such a child. It is a daunting task to do alone, but you don’t have to be alone in the process. Don’t be afraid to pray.
It is okay to feel overwhelmed when raising a strong-willed child. They can be exhausting. And there are other parents out there who understand your struggle, who are feeling the exact same way.
It is always easier to hand out advice than it is to follow through with it; but, these are things that I try to remember when raising my daughter.
I don’t always remember them all at once. Actually, I’m really lucky if I remember to take a step back for a second a think before reacting.
But when I am able to remember a few of these things, I immediately see changes. Both in my daughter and myself. It’s so easy to react to a situation without thinking – but that’s not always the better option.
Remember, they need to you. Not to push them down for being who they are, but to raise them up to become the person they are meant to be.