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Making Peace with your Strong-Willed Child

Making Peace with your Strong-Willed Child

Tired of butting heads with your kid? Learning expert Cynthia Ulrich Tobias offers help and hope
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Every parent knows the feeling: Your child has just drawn on the wall or refused to get dressed or mouthed off to you for the millionth time. And you're absolutely at your wit's end.

For some children, these moments of defiance are just that—moments. But for strong-willed children, these "moments" are a way of life. And they can zap the resolve of even the most patient parent.

In her book "You Can't Make Me, (But I Can Be Persuaded)" (Water Brook), learning expert Cynthia Ulrich Tobias helps parents get inside the head and heart of the strong-willed child to find ways not only to cope with a stubborn child, but to bring out the best in that child.

We talked to Cynthia to find out how all parents can use her ideas to restore peace to our homes and learn to see the best in our kids.

Let's start with the obvious: How do you define a strong-willed child?

A strong-willed child (SWC) is one who loves to challenge the rules. This is a child who knows that anything is possible. It might take longer or be inconvenient to do it, but it can still be done.

That's frustrating to parents who try to motivate their kids with absolutes. If Dad says, "You'll never get to college if you don't study," the SWC will respond, "Really? You mean no one's ever done it?" There's that little glint in the eye as they challenge the limits of "never" and "can't."

The SWC knows there's nothing he really has to do. So when parents issue edicts and ultimatums, the SWC will take the consequences rather than do what he's told. The SWC wants to have a sense of control over his or her life. If you find you're in a constant battle of wills with your child, there's a pretty good chance that your child, and possibly you, are strong willed.

To some degree, that sounds like most kids. How can a parent know the difference between a child who's just being defiant and one who qualifies as a SWC?

The difference really is about temperament. A defiant child has trouble with authority. But a SWC will fight against the way authority is communicated. The SWC wants to have a say in things. He or she typically won't resist the idea of authority.

But I want to make it clear that rebellion, defiance and disobedience are wrong regardless of a child's temperament. If a SWC does something that doesn't honor God, if it's in defiance of his or her parents, if it's destructive or hurtful, that can't be blamed on a strong will.

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August 28, 2014  2:56pm

This article made my Day !!!!!

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August 22, 2014  10:09pm

Thank you , I needed to read this. I have a 5 year old SWC and after reading your article I realized that I was once a SWC. She is my mini me and I love her to pieces and this article will help me to understand her and myself. I pray that we will grow closer as we learn to understand one another. Right now I'm struggling with how to explain to family that she is SW. She's also at that age where she says what she means even if it might hurt someone's feelings. Even though she may not mean it the way it came out. I talk to her when situations arise and do my best to help her understand why she shouldn't say certain things. To all the parents of SWC "We can do this!" *hugs* ^_^

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July 06, 2014  9:14pm

I am dealing with my own SWC. She will turn 5 this summer and not a day goes by without a battle of some sort, usually about hygiene or some other minor request I might have. On weekends, she can control the house with her rages. I had always vowed I would not yell as a parent but lately it seems like all I do is yell. There are also times when I feel like the couple in the article who felt they did not love their child. I know better but it seems my daughter is transporting me back to my childhood when I grew up with a younger sister who was indeed a SWC. Oh, the horror. She really did hold our family hostage for 14 LONG years. I appreciate your thoughts and intend to implement the break word. I just hope our relationship will grow and thrive rather than continue to be strained. It hurts my heart to see us struggle so much at the beginning of our lives together.

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