The term "strong-willed child" has embedded itself in our vernacular to mean a child who wants to be at the center of everyone's attention, is highly demanding (and won't take "no" for an answer), frustrates easily and doesn't want to do what he's told. In a word, infuriating. Actually, most children who fit this description are highly creative, resourceful and determined. The problem becomes that of disciplining the child's energies such that they produce achievement rather than headache.
The solution lies in what I refer to as the Six C's of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child:
First, center your family properly. Adults, not children, should be at the focal point of attention. The first step to getting the strong-willed child to cooperate is getting him to pay attention, and no child simply will pay attention to adults who are constantly paying attention to him.
Second, you must communicate your expectations clearly, as opposed to wishfully. You wish for obedience when you beat around the bush with pleas and bribes or threats. You expect it by coming straight at the bush with clear, commanding statements.
Third, when the child disobeys (as all children will), your consequences must fit the crime. The only consequence that fits a crime, however, is one powerful enough (without being painful) to quickly stop the crime from happening.
Fourth, you must practice consistency. Lack of consistency forces a child to test. Testing causes stress which, in turn, inhibits both communication and affection between parent and child.
Fifth, the child must make regular contributions to the family in the form of chores. Contribution cancels self-centeredness. Therefore, the more responsible the strong-willed child is around the home, the less demanding he or she will be.
Last but not least, you must practice conservatism. The strong-willed child is a child given to excess. His demands for attention and things is excessive, his emotional reactions are excessive in both degree and frequency and his proclivity for inappropriate behavior is excessive. As a result, his need for discipline is excessive as well. The antidote is for parents to be cautiously conservative when it comes to giving this headstrong child attention, praise and material things.
By not yielding to the child's demands, parents gently force the child, slowly but surely, to take responsibility for and control over his behavior and emotions. Because parents are not letting the family be controlled by the child's emotional state, the child becomes more resourceful and self- sufficient. As the child adjusts his internal "thermostat" to the reality of living in a family in which you can't always get what you want, the child requires less and less discipline.
The strong-willed child is now on his or her way to becoming a strong-willed adult, which the world can always use more of.
Copyright 2019, John Rosemond
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