Strong-Willed Children: Understanding and Solving the Challenge

Notes from Delana on a 2005 conference by Dr. Kathy Koch

A child can’t take something off until he knows what to put on.  Kathy says that most people don’t stand totally naked in front of their closet/dresser trying to figure out what to wear.  First, we decide what we want to wear, and then we change into it.  Kids have to understand what we want them to change into before they take off a bad behavior.  Instead of saying, “Don’t be rude,” or “Don’t be_________”; say, “Be _________.”

Change the belief system that causes negative behavior.  “Why am I an interrupter?”  “Why am I__________?”  In Ephesians 4:22 Paul admonishes us to take off the old self.  Verse 24 says to put on your new self.  How we do this is explained in verse 23—renew your mind with the Word.  Kathy encourages us to pray verses over our children.  We should use positive language to instruct our children.  Instead of just telling them to stop doing something wrong, we have to teach them to do right.  For example, Isaiah 1:16b-17a teaches,

“Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”

Being strong-willed isn’t all negative.

Make a list of all the advantages of being strong-willed.  Some are:  they stand up for what they believe in, not easily persuaded, outspoken leaders, risk takers, over-comers, not shy, independent.

Kathy, as a child, was very chatty.  She says that if her parents had always told her to shut-up, then she probably would have been discouraged from becoming the motivational speaker she is today.     It is our job as parents to focus our child’s strong will for good and not evil.

Strategies that might help:

1.  Use announcements to warn children that a change (command) is coming.  Example, “In five minutes it will be time to eat.”  OR “We will leave in five minutes.”  Most adults don’t enjoy being interrupted in what they are doing. We would rather have a few minutes to come to a stopping point or finish a task.

2.  Give children choices when possible.  “This is a privilege.  I trust you.  If you complain about my choices, you lose the privilege of choosing.”

3.  Use the broken record technique.  Remember to say “Thanks.”  Keep your tone and wording the same.  Just keep repeating the choice or the command.  Add gentle, firm, purposeful contact.

4.  End commands with, “Okay?”  Remember to say, “Thanks” when they follow through.  Example, “Put your dish in the sink please, Okay?”  “Okay” often gets an automatic response of “okay.”


3 thoughts on “Strong-Willed Children: Understanding and Solving the Challenge

  1. Pingback: 7 Tips for Parenting a Strong-Willed Child « Delana's World

  2. Pingback: Sharing Resources: Parenting (from The Education Cafe) « 3rdculturechildren

  3. Pingback: Tips for Dealing with Strong-Willed Kids « The Education Cafe

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