You want to tell me how to manage my strong-willed child?

About once a year I find all of my friends – and their friends and every mommy group on the web plastering social media with posts about how to manage strong-willed children. Sometimes it’s “Take the power back” sometimes it’s “You spared the rod and you spoiled your child” and sometimes it’s just “10 things you’re doing wrong” all of which make me feel like writing a bunch of expletives in comment boxes.

tough guy

Part of me has some hope that the article will have the magic secret to super-simplify my existence, part of me is upset that everyone out there – without a truly strong-willed child – thinks there’s something you’re doing wrong.

Having a strong-willed child is a real thing. Lots of parents *think* they have a strong-willed child, but all kids are challenging from time to time. Your kid doesn’t want to eat their dinner sometimes? Please. Your kid pitches a fit because his shirt is the wrong shade of blue? But of course. Your child doesn’t want to follow directions the first, second or third time you ask?

Baaaahhhh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

My strong-willed child will teach you what a strong-willed child actually is. I won’t go deep into detail about my sweet little guy (and yes, for all his strong will and challenge, he’s super sweet), but yes, it apparently IS possible to get suspended in Junior Kindergarten within 2 months of starting school.

He’s an awesome kid – very smart, and as I mentioned, super sweet – and many adults are no match for him. I’m no match for him. I’m pretty sure he’s smarter than me – much, much smarter than me.

alpha dog
photo: Kyle May

Strong-willed – for lack of a better word – means that they really are a lot tougher than most kids in terms of their convictions and desires. They’re the Alpha Dog in the pack whether you’ve relinquished your seat as Alpha Dog or not. They simply don’t accept that anyone else is in charge.

And that’s that.

It doesn’t start when they realize you’re willing to give in, it doesn’t grow because you let it. As an adult you can rationally sit there and say “I’m in charge and that kid is going to listen to me.” As a strong-willed kid, they’re just programmed to believe they have equal rights and won’t relinquish that control. They don’t have a strategy, it’s just who they are.

We all hate unsolicited parenting advice, but there are some universals we all share as parents – trying to find ways to get kids to eat more veggies; trying to teach them responsibility so that we’re not constantly replacing lost jackets and toys; trying to make them do homework. But “Taking the power back from your strong-willed child” is not universal. It’s not fun to feel that you’re the mom that’s losing at parenting because the fix is so easy.

He can outlast any standoff, he can resist any consequence, and he’s happy to spite himself to prove he’s right. The only thing that works in our house is love, love, love, love and more love.

We’ve tried to figure out how to manage it. We’ve read the  posts. We’ve consulted a few authorities – from Dr. Sears to Dr. Neufeld to Dr. Seuss, so far the only advice I’ve gleaned that works is “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

dr seuss

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