Stubborn, thick-headed, bossy, disobedient or outright defiant are all words that have been coined to describe your child. Strangers give you glaring looks of anger when you are out in public and this child digs in his or her heels to stand ground on something seemingly trivial. Trying to fight an endless battle has left you throwing up your hands in despair and agonizing frustration.

The next time that child sends you running to the spa for a break, remember that he or she could have what it takes to be the next president. Are you the parent of a challenging child or our future president?

Go ahead and think about it. Make a list of all the admired traits of a good leader, and then look your child in the eyes before you respond. The parenting advice you choose to follow could mean the difference. Begin by channeling strong willed traits into positives!

…whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. —Philippians 4:8

Determining if Your is Child Strong Willed

Start with determining whether your child is strong willed or is dealing with another issue that requires separate attention. Following are a few common characteristics of strong-willed children:

  • The child makes his or her demands and needs known without backing down
  • The child was an early walker, talks fast, or even eats quickly
  • The child is highly impatient when things aren’t moving as fast as he or she would like
  • The child often, or always, ignores the word, “No” and makes his or her own rules
  • Bedtime is always an issue. Even when truly tired, the child will try to decide upon his or her own bedtime
  • The child tells other children how to play and what to do
  • Everything turns into a negotiation or debate

Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

If you’re tired of receiving unsolicited advice on how to hard-edge force this “defiant” child into “good behavior,” stop! Forcing the issue will only make things worse, and the typical “bad parent” guilt that accompanies parenting a strong-willed child is anything but helpful. Instead, follow the advice of a Walt Disney character and begin to “accentuate the positives” in your child’s behavior. For every negative trait, there is a positive twist or spin.

Strongly resist the urge to yell, blame, humiliate or shame your strong-willed child. These parental attempts at honing an out-of-control child’s behavior to compliant will only add to the power struggle. Children with a strong will often appear to be defiant, when in reality, they are screaming out to be molded into the personality and temperament God gave them.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6 

Give Your Child the Fuel He or She Needs

Like a car runs on gasoline, people run on their own kind of “fuel.” What “fuel” to use is determined by individual temperament. Love makes a better fuel than punishment. All children have good qualities, and that includes those that are strong willed. As confident as this child appears, he needs the affirmation of a parent to cherish who he is. Begin by giving your child the fuel he needs without destroying and stepping on what makes him who he is.

Replace each negative word associated with a strong-willed trait, and turn it into a positive. For instance, calling your child difficult or stubborn could instead be looked upon as assertive, persistent or independent. On the tough days, get out a thesaurus or dictionary and look up the first word that comes to mind to describe your strong-willed offspring and then choose the antonym, or opposite, of that word when approaching your child for correction.

Strong Character Can Beget Strong Leaders

Remember that it takes a strong will to develop character traits that one day are admired as great leadership skills. Overcoming tough times, speaking up for what is right, patience, loyalty, hardworking persistence, the dedication needed to perfect a skill, accomplish goals, keep promises, to lead, or the strength to resist temptation all require a strong will.

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