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Raising a Strong Willed Child: Top 2 Things They Need from You Today

March 24, 2023

If you're raising a young person who's strong willed, it can certainly be challenging. This type of child's powerful will can seem to overpower the energy of a room with their determined nature to get their way.

There may be more going on for people--especially children--when they seem strong willed, however. It's often a mask for something else.

Reframing the strong willed child's labels

There are many synonyms for a strong willed person of any age, including kids--and most aren't particularly flattering. Here are several examples:

  • Stubborn

  • Headstrong

  • Obstinate

  • Combattive

  • Resolute

There are more synonyms of being strong willed, of course, but you get the gist.

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Our mindset around "strong willed" matters

As humans, our brains seek something called confirmation bias, which means "...the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values." (source)

In other words, if we think our of someone as being strong willed, confirmation bias tells us with every hint of pushback that we were right about our belief, even if there's more going on beneath the surface. However, that's not always what's really happening.

The way we view kids matters, and the paradigm shift to make parenting easier is to realize kids are doing the best they can with the physical and emotional skills they've learned so far. It takes 25-30 years for kids' brains to fully develop, so it behooves us to look for the good in what they've learned and the behavior they're exhibiting.

Related post: When Does Parenting Get Easier?

What strong willed kids need most from their parents

Strong willed kids need these two things from their parents every day:

  1. Permission to express themselves and be fully heard, without us interrupting or telling them why they "must" do what we say. Often, the child's perspective is that we--the adult--are the one who's strong willed. When we soften and get curious about what they're trying to communicate, they often soften in return. We need to focus less on being "right" and, instead, on being a safe emotional place for them to express themselves. Over time and by us modeling effective communication, they'll learn.

    If we see them as "talking back," we can reframe it as "they're learning to stand up for themselves." That's a good and healthy life skill that we can navigate with compassion. Here's how.

  2. Extra gentleness. Beneath the surface of the strong willed child's demeanor is often a deeply sensitive soul who's simply put on "armor" of appearing strong when, in reality, they need someone who deeply strives to understand their needs and help them feel less overwhelmed by the world.

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Focus on the "strong" of "strong willed"

Strong willed children are often the ones who, provided they're not "squashed" by those who overpower them emotionally, grow up to have incredible drive, emotional strength, and resilience.

Most of all, when problems arise, remember that it's not you versus your child in a battle of strong wills. Instead, it's you alongside them against whatever problem you're trying to solve together.

Disclaimer:  All advice and guidance offered on this site is not medical guidance and should not be interpreted as such, and the owner of this site is not responsible for individual outcomes.

I am not a physician, psychologist, or counselor, nor am I licensed to offer therapy or medical advice of any kind. I am a certified conscious parenting coach and my courses, blog posts, and all other guidance are based on my training and experience. If you are having an emergency or are in crisis please call 911, or the National Suicide Prevention Line (800-273-8255), or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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Sarah R. Moore

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