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  • Writer's pictureInterval Health

3 Tips for Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Has your preschool child recently told you they "know way more than you?" Do they go "toe-to-toe" with you on almost everything? If so, this post is for you!

Few people enjoy others telling them what to do, and sometimes, that even rings true for young children. Strong-willed children are often referred to as stubborn or even “difficult.” In reality, they mostly want to be able to learn and do things for themselves.

As a parent, you might find yourself always at odds with the things your child wants to do. It’s your job to guide, protect, and set boundaries. But, if they’re always fighting against you, it can feel like a battle that never ends.

As opposed to old, familiar advice, the answer isn’t breaking your child’s will. The answer is making sure they know that they need to listen to you because they trust you and know you want what’s best for them.

However, getting to that point can feel easier said than done. How can you effectively parent a strong-willed child and put the constant battles to an end?

1. Connect at Their Level

Most of the time, a strong-willed child wants to learn by experience or have choices to make them feel like they are an active participant in their own lives. After all, we all want to feel like we have a handle on our lives.

Instead of fighting with them, connect with them. If your child likes you, they’re more likely to listen to you. Think about the best boss you’ve ever had. Chances are, they didn’t spend all day yelling at you or reminding you that they were in charge. If you ever had a boss that did do that, you probably weren’t their biggest fan.

Practice the same sort of attitude with your child. Think about how you can effectively lead them by connecting with them, rather than continually butting heads.

2. Give Them Choices

Again, a strong-willed child wants the ability to have some control over their own life. As a parent, you know that isn’t always the best thing if they can’t yet make healthy, safe choices or understand potential consequences.

So, give them options instead of telling them what’s going to happen.

For example, if you’re making dinner, give them two or three choices of things you’re willing to make, rather than telling them what they’re going to have. It will save a lot of stress and fighting and make sharing a meal a much more relaxing experience.

3. Listen

Listening is one of the most crucial things you can do for any child, especially a strong-willed one.

You may know best as a parent. That doesn’t mean your child’s input, thoughts, feelings, and ideas, shouldn’t be accounted for. If they are fighting with you about something, it may be meaningful to them. Or, maybe they’re trying to protect something.

Instead of fighting back, listen. Ask them why they feel so strongly about a particular item or situation. When you get to the bottom of their feelings, you can approach the problem differently. You can work with your child, instead of against them. Strong-willed children tend to have a lot of integrity, so they’re not just trying to give you a hard time.

That integrity will one day be a massive asset for them. So, it’s important to foster it now, in the right ways. Trying to crush it or getting them to “submit” because of your parent-child relationship can also destroy their spirit.

If you have a strong-willed child and you find it difficult to see eye-to-eye, you’re not alone. These tips can help you to develop a better, more peaceful connection.

Feel free to contact me for more parenting information or more tips on building a better parent-child relationship with less fighting and more joy. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.

To learn more about how counseling can help you on your parenting journey, please click here.

BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.


Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!


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