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Battling the Beasties: Parenting Your Strong Willed Child

Updated on July 27, 2015
notyouraverageal profile image

Mom. Homeschooler. Mystery shopper. Editor. Wife. These are a few words to describe notyouraverageal. Her life is anything but average.

We Have Spirit, Yes We Do!

Most parents *think* they may have a strong willed child, but the parents who have one *know* it. I mean, they really know it, and there is no doubt. Apparently, I breed strong personalities. I ended up with two of them. I love them, but boy, raising them has been a challenge!

I don’t claim to be an authority on this subject, but I do claim that I’ve done pretty well with my own beasties so far. One recently turned 18, and by golly, he may just turn out to be a decent human being yet. The other one is 14, so the jury is still out on her. Just kidding. She’s pretty decent too. Most of the time.

I’ve read several books about how to raise strong willed kids, and quite honestly, most of them did not help me at all. However, one that did help was Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I like that term, “Spirited.” It has a nicer ring to it than, “Brat.” Some days, though, it was hard to deny that my beasties fit into the “Brat” category. Overall, I have awesome kids, but they certainly have had their moments.

When my son was almost 4, I took him to a counselor. I was so convinced there was something wrong with him that I thought he needed therapy. (Or at least I was pretty sure I was going to need it by the time I finished raising him!) The counselor told me I had an intelligent and strong willed little boy and if I channeled him in the right direction, he would do amazing things. I asked what happened if I didn’t get him channeled, and the counselor said we didn’t want to talk about that.

Through the years, I’ve learned a few things about parenting a child who has a will of his own, and I hope these will help you. These may sound like common sense, but when you’re in the heat of battle, they are easy to forget.

First and Foremost, Choose Your Battles.

You will hear this over and over and over again, and if you are like I was, you will have no idea what this really means. Let me spell it out for you.

When dealing with a strong willed child, if you don’t have to fight over it, don’t. That applies to all categories of life.

- He wants to eat syrup on his chicken parmesan? Great. Let him. (Don’t laugh. My son did this for at least 2 years of his life.)

- She wants to wear her shoes on the wrong feet? Well, they ARE her feet. (My daughter wore hers like this for about 9 months. At first, we would try to switch them. She would throw a fit and then change them. I finally gave up.) Just so you know, she's now 14, and her feet are not oddly shaped. She came out of the backwards shoes phase unscathed.

- He wants to wear his long-sleeved Superman pajamas to the park in July, in Florida? Okie dokie. (Learning through sweat is a valid way to learn.)

- She wants to wear an orange striped shirt with green plaid shorts and two different socks? Take a deep breath and let her do it. (And watch the nods of solidarity you’ll get from other parents in the same boat.)

These are silly examples, but they are true examples from my life. Take it from a mother who fought more than she should have – the fewer battles you have, the longer you’ll maintain the little bit of sanity you have left.

If your child will not be injured, endangered or negatively impacted, it’s not worth fighting over. Leave the battles for when you need to fight them.

Second, and Most Importantly, If You Are Going to Battle, Make Sure You Win.

You may have seen my list above and thought, “I could never let my child…” If that’s the case, that’s fine. It’s your child. You get to make the rules. You get to decide how much freedom you can let him or her have.

Just remember, if it’s important enough to fight over, it’s important enough to win. Believe me, my friend, this is the most important advice I can give you in this battle against your beastie. You. Must. Win.

Here’s a little secret you may not know about your beasties. They are smart. Really smart. Smarter than the average bear. They know how to manipulate you, and they know if you mean business or if you don’t.

How can you always win? Read this article for my tips:


How often do you have to battle your child(ren)?

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Third, Don't Compare Your Beasties to Other Children!

It is very easy to look at a strong willed child and wonder what is wrong with him or her. You will see other perfect child who sit still in church and say, “Yes, ma’am,” when asked to do something. They will be respectful and easy and patient. And then, your child will throw a fit. You will think you did something wrong. You will think you somehow caused this child to be difficult. You will then start to wish your child was different, and from there, it’s a slippery slope.

Trust me when I tell you, there is nothing wrong with your beastie. He is independent and smart and strong. These will be qualities that will work for him when he’s older. You just have to get him there.

You did not do anything to cause your child to have a strong personality. (Though, it’s quite possible he inherited his will from you….) You did not do anything wrong, and there is nothing wrong with him. He is just more.

-More bothered by sensory issues

-More passionate about his likes and dislikes

-More willing to express his feelings

-More able to stand his ground

-More likely to lead others

These may seem like negatives now, but when he is an adult, these will be the same things that make you proud of this wonderful person. Just hang in there and keep choosing and winning your battles.

You aren’t alone in this battle. You can win, and when you do, your beasties are going to turn out great!


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    • profile image

      Dee Little 2 years ago

      Amen! We were both blessed with Strong willed children. (Seahorse Girl and Sensory kid)

    • Pam Morris profile image

      Pam Morris 2 years ago from Atlanta Georgia

      I enjoy reading this article. I have a strong will child and it a very big challenge at sudden times.