Parenting the Strong-Willed Child Who Doesn’t Take “NO” for an Answer
Parents know this child. The strong-willed child is the kid who has to have it their way. Firstly, this child is incredibly passionate when they are into something. They might spend hours fully investigating a topic or an activity. When they really want to do something, nothing is going to stop them.
Secondly, the strong-willed child needs to do things according to their own expectations. For example, they may feel that things HAVE to happen a certain way. This could mean a certain sequence of events or activities. It’s not that they need predictability, but that they believe things must be a certain way for a very good reason. A strong-willed child can handle a change of plans as long as it’s their idea.
Thirdly, this child often takes matters into their own hands. If they ask for something and their request is not honored, then they may just go ahead and try their luck on their own. If an adult says no, they will either argue or go ahead and do their own thing anyway. (And yes, we say no in our house. I have 3 kids ages 4 and under – NO is how we set boundaries.)
What Life is Like
If you’re reading this, then you might be thinking “YES this is so my child.” I think that a lot of these traits are a normal part of development in childhood and toddlerdom. However, some kids just seem to show these traits more strongly than others.
My strong-willed child is now almost 5. Everything requires explanation, preparation, and analysis. Her intensity is often overwhelming. If she is told “no” to something that she finds a totally rational request, she will simply do the thing anyway and have a really in-depth explanation about why she felt it was the right thing to do. How do you argue with that?
Interestingly, my experience has shown me that these personality traits can show up from the very early days. They might even relate back to pregnancy and birth. A postpartum doula can help you understand more about your baby’s personality and how to meet their unique needs.
This is a really great quality for people to have. Perseverance and passion are amazing qualities in life. This intensity can give you the strength to push past the point when other people would have probably given up.
However, for toddlers and young children, this can lead to scary moments and safety issues. This is especially true if they fully believe that what they are doing is totally rational and justified. You can’t convince them otherwise, and they will simply take matters into their own hands. We have to keep everything on lock down in our home.
How to Harness This Power
As stated previously, this quality can be an amazing asset if it is harnessed into a positive force. In my family, I try to use my daughter’s strong-willed nature to facilitate learning and independence. If she wants to learn about something, we just go with it and she will stay focused on something for a very long time. I try to say “yes” as much as possible. But I have to have trust in her process rather than trying to “win” an argument.
Trusting the process may look like: teaching safety, setting boundaries, explaining the value of something, allowing natural consequences to happen, and giving space for them to work out their problems.
When you give the strong-willed child space and time to work through their problems, they can often come to their own solutions. If they are respected in their independence, they are more likely to come to an adult when they are really in trouble. Be present and available, but don’t try to save them from natural consequences of a situation (unless it’s a safety issue, obviously).
Be present. Accept their process. Be open and available. Harness their passion.