Baby Hints & Tips

Parenting the strong willed child

parenting the strong willed childToday Baby Hints and Tips resident writer Lynn Jackson shares her experiences as the mother of a strong willed child. If you have a determined little person you’ll more than relate to her words – and appreciate her helpful hints to surviving this challenging stage of parenting.

My son is stubborn.
Defiant in his single-minded determination to get what he wants.

It’s exhausting.

Whether it’s the battle to wash peanut butter out of his hair or the struggle to get him out of his PJs and out the door to childcare, he has always been a child that makes his opinion known. Frustratingly, that opinion tends to be a long, drawn out NOOOOOOOOOO projected at a volume that could make the neighbour’s ears bleed.

Since turning 4, it’s often been food related. He’s experiencing a year-long growth spurt, it seems, and I can’t seem to provide enough fuel throughout the day to meet his needs. There’s only so many bananas that one little boy can eat in a 12 hour day, so there’s a line that has to be drawn somewhere. I think I’ve drawn it at a pretty generous 3 (he’s lucky the price of bananas finally went down this year!) but apparently not. If he knows there are bananas in the house, he is dogged in his demands to eat the lot. This has led to a stealth approach – each day I take three bananas out of the stash at the back of the pantry and fill the fruitbowl. As soon as the fast is broken – a measly 5 Weetbix with strawberries – the requests begin. He’s worked out the “pretty please” method is pretty cute, so that’s his first approach. Usually – success. Then begins the next plan.

“Mu-ummmm, can I have another banana.”
“You just had one, sweetheart.”
“But I’m HUNNNGGG-REEEEE. Pl – eeeeeee- ase.”
“Wait until morning tea.”
“When’s morning tea?”
“11 o’clock, sweetheart. Like everyday.”
“Is it 11 o’clock now?”
“No, it’s half past seven. 11 o’clock is a long time away. Go play.”
That’s my code for I’m done, kid, now let me get that second coffee into me before I lose my mind for another day before 8am. But of course, it’s only 5 minutes max before he’s back.
“Is it 11 o’clock now?”

This continues until 11 o’clock when he’s rewarded for his single-minded obsession at five seconds past the hour. I’m pretty sure he can read the clock now too – he just likes to ask. And ask. And ask. He gets his banana, then popcorn, carrot sticks and hummus, cheese sticks and some crackers. Like I said, he’s growing apparently. Lunchtime distracts for a moment. Then we begin the countdown for afternoon tea.

One day, I’m going to be pleased that he knows what he wants and will work determinedly to get it. I think he’ll go far with that trait. I’ve been told that stubbornness also often comes with a steadfast ability to focus, and that helps children learn. Strong-willed children often learn skills quickly and succeed in life as they are not easily discouraged by initial failure Steve Jobs was notoriously stubborn, ignoring all the advice from “experts” who tried to sway him from his vision. Barack Obama too, was described by his mother as a stubborn child, and this quality helped him become one of the most powerful leaders in the Western world. . Stubbornness often matures into a strong will, leadership and self-confidence – all qualities that I want my son to embrace in his adult personality.

Until then, I’ll just keep hiding the bananas.

5 tried & true tips for dealing with determined personalities: 

1. Pick your battles.

(This advice should be embroidered onto a pillow and given to all new mums as they take their babies home from the hospital!)

2. Carry through

Never threaten a consequence that you’re not willing to carry out. And carry through EVERY time.

3. Give choices

Offer choices. “Do you want a sandwich or spaghetti to eat for lunch?” gives power to a determined child who wants control, while still keeping options manageable.

4. Play the yes game.

Ask questions that will be answered positively, before a request. (ie. Do you like the bubbles in the bath? Is the boat your favourite toy? Can you climb out of the bath by yourself?)

5. Routine

Establish a daily and weekly routine. Determined and stubborn behaviour can indicate that your child feels out of control and rushed.

Share what parenting methods work with your strong willed child in the comments below


About the Author:

Lynn Jackson is a mother of three, a wife of one and a teacher of many. Living in her hometown of Adelaide after many years travelling and teaching abroad, she attempts to find time for her passions of photography, reading, writing and skinny lattes with friends.

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