I had only what I can call a huge victory recently with my son. No, we did not win a major event or anything like that. It was much simpler. We avoided a heated standoff, and then we followed up with some positive reinforcement.
“Wow! Epic story, Mike!”
Go ahead and laugh at how ordinary that may seem. But to any parent with a super strong-willed child, it is heaven.
This just wasn’t one event…four big things happen that really stood out to me:
- My son and I butted heads where it seemed like a complete meltdown was about to happen (they last for a long time once triggered).
- I kept my composure and did not yell. I then asked for his help and let him know what would happen if he did not listen (or kept being fresh), all while being calm.
- I proceeded to walk away, allowing him to decide on his own (which his temperament needs).
- Later on in the day, when no one was around, I pulled him aside, recalled the moment, and told him how proud I was that he did the right thing. I then followed it up by acknowledging how strong he is and how happy I was; he handled his big emotions without yelling. He hugged me and said, “I love you, dad.”
(I think I learned more by this process than he and it was a good reminder that it is easier to pull a rope than push it)
With my strong-willed child, I typically come unhinged right around #2. I typically clash hard in the struggle for power (WHO IS THE BOSS HERE?). However, for the strong-willed child, the worst thing you can do is show them your dominance. My son resents me when I take full control and lay down the law. It doesn’t work for him and pushes him to dig in and lash out harder.
Strong-willed children cannot be bossed around when they are feeling big emotions. To make matters more difficult, this will only heighten if the struggle is happening in front of others or friends.
The best thing we can do is keep calm, provide them their options/outcomes, and walk away. This does a few things for the strong-willed child. First, they can still feel in control because they make the decision (instead of being told). Second, they get to save face in front of whoever they are with. Third, since we play to their strengths (not fighting against them), the child will most likely choose the right path as they are naturally geared to please.
Bonus on #4 above. This works great in every other area of your life! I work in corporate America, and often the work is a thankless job. It is expected that you do a good job, so gratitude isn’t always present. More recently, I started to acknowledge my peers in calm moments well after they might have forgotten about the situation. Oh, how they light up! Talk about breathing life into another person’s soul. Try it out!
It is so easy to catch problems and things that we do not like. I propose that we should all try to catch and acknowledge the great acts of others. I find it better to fill someone up with appreciation than to point out perceived issues. I mean, it is straightforward: Love works better than anger.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash