How to Effectively Parent Your Strong-Willed Child

Parenting is never easy but sometimes parents of strong-willed children may feel like they have an extra level of complexity to navigate as they seek to peacefully parent their kid.

Don’t be discouraged! It is possible to find positive ways to parent your determined child.

Here are a few ideas to help you in your parenting journey.

What Is a Strong-Willed Child?

Strong-willed children are often referred to as being “spirited”, “difficult”, or “stubborn.” These are the kids that have a strong sense of integrity and are not easily strayed from their line of thinking. These kids have a desire to learn things for themselves and desire to be “in charge” as much as possible.

Most times they come with big emotions and can require an extra dose of parental patience and understanding. 

Oftentimes, parents of strong-willed children can find themselves in power struggles with their children. Strong-willed children can find being told what to do unbearable and it can be hard to convince them to comply without them buying into your plan.

One parenting tip is to remember that when you find yourself in a power struggle with your child, you are not forced to stay in this sort of conversation. It is perfectly okay to walk away and try a different approach at a calmer moment when emotions begin to run high in your home. 

Strong-Willed Children as Adults

Parents often joke that if we can survive the young years with our strong-willed child we know that one day they will use their mind to become a CEO! We know that having a strong sense of self, logic, and a big dose of moxie can be an asset to our kids when they become adults! Nonetheless, having a peaceful home and relationship with your child is essential. 

There is truth to their spirited nature being an asset to them as adults. Strong-willed people have high expectations, are not easily intimidated, can be very independent, and have GRIT.

Each of these character traits is important for their success as an adult. Taking time to appreciate the ways your child’s strong mind can be an asset to them as they grow can help you have more empathy as you parent them.

How to Set Boundaries with a Strong-Willed Child

Parenting a child that has very strong ideas of their own and is not eager to comply can be a challenge to say the least! While we all know that we want our children to be strong and independent individuals we also need them to understand the importance of following directions and respecting boundaries.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate those tough parenting moments with your “spirited’ child: 

1. Whenever possible, offer your strong-will child choices

Allowing your child a choice gives them a sense of control over the task you are wanting them to complete and can help you as a parent avoid a power struggle with your child. One example would be if your child is having trouble getting out the door. You could say “would you like to leave now or in five minutes for now with no argument.”

This allows your child some input but also puts clear parameters around what will be expected of them depending of the choice they make.

2. Stick to a routine and have consistent rules for your home

When the expectations are clear and consistent, your child will be able to anticipate what to expect from you and from their day. This helps to reduce the number of you versus them moments in your daily routines. If every night homework is done before TV time and this is the rule everyday your child will not see room in the routine to challenge you.

They know what to expect, they will eventually understand that these expectations won’t change, and will comply with the expectations.

3. Connect as much as you can with your child

Connection grows mutual respect and empathy for one another’s points-of-view. Even the most strong-willed child will comply when they feel heard, loved, and safe inside with the instruction you are offering them.

Keep in mind what is an appropriate expectation for your child’s development and even if a request you make begets tears or a tantrum don’t step away from the situation without them knowing they are still loved even if they were not able to get their own way.

Being loved and getting everything you want are not the same things. If connection is paired with your response your child will eventually see that you set limits because you love them.

spoiled entitled crying kid

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages

Positive Discipline for Strong-Willed Child

Things often will only escalate when you use parenting techniques such as spanking or yelling with a strong-willed child and often lead to power struggles. One suggestion to avoid relying on these parenting techniques is to approach an issue with your child by first asking “how and what” questions.

For example if the problem you are trying to solve is being ready for school in time in the morning you could ask your child what they think everyone could do differently so mornings run more smoothly. Hear their suggestions and build on that as a way to together create a plan that everyone can buy into to solve your problem. Then find ways to keep track of everyone's compliance with the plan.

Some ideas include creating a visual chart of the new morning routine, creating a morning checklist, or even just checking in with each other once you get in the car to discuss how the morning went.

With a strong-minded child having them buy into whatever the routine is for your home is a very important part of positively disciplining when you face problematic behaviors as a parent.

How to Teach a Strong-Willed Child to Listen

Parenting is so much more about what we model for our kids than what we ask of our kids. According to Aha Parenting listening to your child is a great way to help avoid ugly power struggles in your home. Your strong-minded child may be reluctant to hear your point of view because they are invested in protecting their own integrity.

Hearing their thoughts on a subject and inquiring as to why they are so adamant about a particular course of action helps open a dialogue between the two of you. Your ability to model what it is to be a good listener can help pave the way for them to be willing to hear your input and come to a mutual agreement on an issue.

My Strong-Willed Child Is Driving Me Crazy

When you find yourself more at odds in your home than at peace then it is time to find new ways to connect with your child. It may feel counterintuitive but one powerful way to ease the tension you are feeling is to have fun together. Do something that you both can enjoy together and remember even though you are different (because God made you uniquely to be your own people) you love each other.

Being “right” as a parent is not nearly as important as being willing to show God’s love to your child in a tangible way. God loved us when we were still sinners and we have to be willing to do the same for our kids.

When you find yourself feeling burnt out as a parent it could be a sign that your own tank is running low. Find ways to fill your cup so you can bring your most patient and loving self to your home.

One amazingly encouraging fact that we learned while going through our Foster Parent training a few years back was that meeting your kids needs correctly about 30% off the time is all it takes to grow secure and well attached kids.

Perfection is not required as parents, just doing your best to show up well as much as possible goes a long way in growing strong and kind kids. The work we do as parents is so very important, so don’t grow weary in the good work you are doing!

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes


Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.

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