Challenges When Parenting The Strong-Willed Child

Being a parent is a tough job but that goes to a whole new level when parenting a strong-willed child. We have compiled a list of parenting tips to help you.

All children have their own mind and like to learn things for themselves.  The strong-willed child will put the desire to “be right” above everything and test limits constantly.

People often label them stubborn, difficult or spirited.  The truth is these kids know what they want and why.

Between the sleepless nights and the tantrums, every day will have a new obstacle.  But if you accept the challenges there will be many priceless moments to make it all worthwhile.

And when parenting the strong-willed child there are even more of these as you watch them grow into independent, courageous human beings.

For strongly independent children to become brave and decisive adults it is up to you as the parent to guide them.

If you resist the urge to “break their will” your spirited child may often become a strong leader in the community.

10 Parenting Tips For The Strong-Willed Child

To help you in this challenging and rewarding process we have listed our 10 top tips for parenting a strong-willed child:

1.  Focus On The Positives

It is no secret that a strong-willed child will challenge your patience. But no matter how old they are, it certainly doesn’t help their self-esteem to hear this.

They are self-motivated and focus inwardly so rarely submit to peer pressure.  Living life at full throttle will mean some scrapes and bruises and lots of lessons learned.

Focus on the positives to keep your own attitude upbeat and give positive reinforcement to your child.


2.  Give Them a Choice

A strong-willed child doesn’t like to be told what to do.  This isn’t because they’re choosing to be difficult it’s because they have their own course in mind.

Our parenting tip here is to allow them some options.  Give them the chance to make a decision and you give your child the control they desire.

An example is if you want your child to pick up their toys.  The usual sentence we use is: “Pick up your toys or I’m taking them away.”

Try and phrase it this way: “You have a choice. You can either pick up your toys or put them away for the rest of the night.”

For parenting a strong-willed child it’s important they feel some control over the actions they choose.

3.  Choose Your Battles

Your child must always respect that you are the boss.  When parenting the strong-willed child you must know which battles to stand firm on.

Don’t let your parenting journey become a power struggle with your child.  Understand that being told what to do will compromise your child’s integrity.

If you let every confrontation turn into an argument you may find there is never a peaceful moment. It really is important to know when to just let it go.

parenting the strong willed child

4.  Provide Structure and Routines

All children need a structure and routine but the strong-willed child doesn’t like to feel constrained.

When they know what their day looks like it is easier for them to navigate without argument.  Provide them with the responsibility to do essential daily activities.

Don’t nag at them to brush their hair before leaving for school.  Remind them of the checklist to tick every morning.  For example: “Each morning we eat, get dressed, brush our teeth and hair and pack our bag for school.”

It doesn’t help either of you to argue over the order to complete these.  Your child loves doing things their way and thrives on achievements.


5.  Be Consistent

Children thrive when they know the boundaries of their world.  They understand that there are rules and limits and consequences when they cross those lines.

Parenting the strong-willed child comes with a constant testing of these.

To combat this the best parenting tip is to be consistent and show them that these limits apply to the whole family.  This makes it less personal and helps them learn how to make good choices.

Allow them to be involved in establishing fair and equitable rules to avoid arguments.


6.  Connect With Them

parenting the strong willed child

Connection is such a large part of parenting that it may seem silly to mention. A strong-willed child is motivated to do well when the two of you have a solid connection.

How you connect will be different at every age and may be increasingly more difficult as they enter their teenage years. Fostering connection builds the base to teach your child and is crucial to helping them thrive.


7.  Show Empathy

Empathizing is especially important with strong-willed children because they have a strong desire to be understood. If they’re acting out there is usually a reason so try to see it from their perspective.

You can be firm while still showing empathy. You might say something like, “I know you’re upset right now because you really wanted to go to the park. Since it’s raining, it’s not safe for us to go. Why don’t we play a game together instead?”

Showing them that you understand how they feel helps them get in touch with their own emotions.


8.  Avoid Power Struggles

When parenting the strong-willed child your relationship can become a power struggle if you let it. In this situation there are no winners.

Understand that spirited children do not thrive when their power is taken away.  They also have a burning desire to be “right”.

As the parent you need to navigate the situation to find solutions that satisfy both you and your child.

They have their own feelings, thoughts, and opinions on most subjects and this should be encouraged. Your goal is to be the voice of reason and calm when their emotions are controlling them.

 9.  Take Time to Listen

One of the most powerful things any parent can do is simply listen.

This parenting tip is vital for all parents but especially relevant when parenting the strong-willed child.

Spirited, independent and self-motivated children can challenge a parent’s “I know best” mantra.

If your child is acting out there will usually be a reason and it’s important to know what that is.

Listen calmly to understand what has created the meltdown.  Things that really don’t seem to be a big deal to us as adults can be completely different for these kids.

Showing your child their thoughts and feelings matter can make a huge difference and help them grow into a secure, independent adult.

parenting the strong willed child

 10.  Control Your Emotions

Parenting the strong-willed child is certainly not an easy task.

It’s easy to lose your temper and show anger or frustration when your child is being difficult.

Remember that these children can grow to be strong, independent and decisive leaders when given opportunity.

As parents you set the example and your words and actions teach your children how to behave.

When you fail to control your emotions, your child will have trouble controlling theirs as well.


Parenting the strong-willed child comes with many obstacles but using our parenting tips will have you loving the process.

If you understand why your child is the way they are you can harness their many qualities.  Instead of thinking they will become a menace to society, remember that many influential leaders have these traits.

A study published in Developmental Pyschology found that kids who break the rules go on to earn some of the highest incomes as adults.

Think of parenting a strong-willed child as an exciting adventure.  Your goal is to channel their amazing energy into positive outcomes without crushing their spirit.