Navigating Your Child's Education: Ages 3-K

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Raising a Strong-Willed Child

By Worthington Christian School on Oct 7, 2021 8:00 PM

Merriam-Webster defines strong-willed as “very determined to do something even if other people say it should not be done.” Most parents, however, don’t need a dictionary to tell them what strong-willed means. Those parents who are raising a strong-willed child typically know exactly what that means and what it looks like.

Most parents know they’re dealing with a strong-willed child even if they don’t call it that. A strong-willed child is one who often resists. That is, they don’t take “no” for an answer. They often ask, “Or else what?!” And they know that there’s really nothing they have to do. This attribute often displays itself in the earliest years, even months, of life. An eighteen-month-old that doesn’t want to eat green peas cannot be made to eat the peas. They can be put in her mouth, she can be encouraged to chew and swallow, but it is ultimately up to her whether or not she eats them.

While the adjective “strong-willed” often is used as a negative personality descriptor, that is most often the sentiment for the trait when it has taken the wrong direction. Unhealthy manifestations of strong will include being bossy, competitive to a fault, wanting everyone else to do things their way, difficulty playing on a team, and more. This can result in pushing peers away and driving parents to insanity.

Strong will is, in and of itself, a very positive trait. A person with a strong will is one who is willing to step up when no one else is or when no one else will. It’s a person who doesn't shrink back or give up when all the odds look against them. They have strong convictions and are not easily conquered or discouraged. These are qualities that most parents desire their children to embody in healthy doses. Parents can celebrate their strong-willed children and encourage them in the right direction.

Raising a strong-willed child can leave parents feeling beat down at times. There are some tactics parents can employ to help move everyone in the right direction, but before considering any of these tactics, there are three basic tenets that parents must understand about a strong-willed child. 

1. It’s not authority strong-willed children (or adults) have trouble with, it is how the authority is community. The pointed finger, bossy tone, yelling, and “I’m the boss and I told you to” style of communication does not work.

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