Parenting the “Strong-Willed” Child

I just started typing “Parenting the….” in Google, and the words “strong-willed child” auto-filled in after it.  Ha.  Strong-willed.  Independent.  Spirited.  Such a positive place is modern parenting.  Well, at least I know I’m not alone if that’s the first thing that came up.

The first article I come across, “Parenting Your Strong Willed Child“, has all these gems that are making me laugh out loud.

“…we could also see strong-willed kids as people of integrity who aren’t easily swayed from their own viewpoints.”   Ha.

But there are other gems in here too, especially “You don’t have to attend every argument to which you’re invited!” Truth.  I get invited to a lot of arguments these days and I’ve been dressing up with my pearls and showing up early.

My current solution to the walking-out-of the-gym problem, is that she never goes again.  I suppose she wins.  But I also get the peace of mind knowing that I can work out for forty minutes and not have to wonder what she’s doing, that I don’t have to force her to sit in the kids room and sob or I don’t know what.  Part of that solution means that I work out when she is at preschool twice a week once on the weekend and a few times here at home.  Another part is I just signed up for some Beachbody on Demand videos so I can kick the cats off the rug multiple times and lurch around my own living room.  The kids can either do them with me or do something by themselves. (The third part will go into effect this summer when I go to workout at 6:20 in the morning and get back before my husband leaves for work.) This worked for two days this week, until today I went to start working out and The Young Lady stamped her foot at me and said “NO! You will NOT exercise.  You will play with ME.”

I either said some gentle things about how she gets to talk to me or I said some short, brutal things about making decisions about my own life and go to your damn room.  Or both.  It’s a bit blurry.

Anyway, as is the pattern, she retreated to her room to sulk and I worked out and checked on her after:  She is fast asleep in her bed.  I’m so unused to napping children (mine both gave it up as a nasty habit before age two), that I’m a little shocked.  She was exhausted, she made an ultimatum, we argued, she cried and fell asleep.  Aha.  This is exactly what happened last week, too.  I’ve got to work on catching this before things go south again.

Some other good ideas from the article address our “morning problem”, which I believe that everyone has–the problem of getting the kids out of the door in the morning.  Everyone has strategies and I keep seeing these articles about yelling less, so lets assume that lots of us are yelling at our kids in the morning.  I know I am.  I like this a lot more: “Let her take charge of as many of her own activities as possible. Don’t nag at her to brush her teeth; ask “What else do you need to do before we leave?”” Indeed.

The whole article is a good reminder, although there are things I know right now will never be said, like the following scenario:  “I hear that you don’t want to wear your jacket today. I think it’s cold and I am definitely wearing a jacket. Of course, you are in charge of your own body, as long as you stay safe and healthy, so you get to decide whether to wear a jacket. But I’m afraid that you will be cold once we are outside, and I won’t want to come back to the house. How about I put your jacket in the backpack, and then we’ll have it if you change your mind?”

Blah, blah, blah.  I’m all about giving her authority over her own body, but I am tired, oh so tired, of being the One Who Holds Things and the One Who Gets Things.  You don’t want a jacket?  Fine.  Be cold.  End of discussion.  I know with this child in particular and also her older brother, the more I talk, the less they listen.

There is an interesting point in here about morality, and teaching children to do the right thing, not the thing that is yelled at them the loudest (I’m paraphrasing).  Now, I know some yellers and I’ve noticed that the only thing that happens with yelling, is more yelling.  No real effect on compliance.  I don’t remember the book, but I do remember the idea from a baby book that forcing independence early leads to the child who is independent when you don’t want them to be.  As in, push them out into the world (or play room) when they’re not ready and they’ll develop those skills and, then, um, use them against you?  Okay, no I don’t remember it very well, and it actually doesn’t make any sense.  Forget that.

Whatever.  The take home message is to stop having conversations that sound like that boss of Tom Hanks’ in “Joe Vs. The Volcano”.  Keep on keeping on, oh parents of strong-willed children.


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