If you are raising a strong-willed child, like we have, I know you are looking for anything to make it easier. I do mean ANYTHING!
Once you have a strong-willed child of your own, you can spot them anywhere and everywhere, but most parents will just have understanding of where you are and share in your pain, as they are walking through it themselves.
I was given words of wisdom by my mom when my own daughter caused me to feel like a failure when she was just a little girl. These words were ‘harness her the right way and she could change the world‘.
I contemplated this for years and have considered that a ‘harness' is used to train a horse in obedience. When a harness is placed in a horse's mouth, it only requires a little tug one way or the other for the horse to know the direction its rider desires it to go and will follow. It doesn't hurt the horse, unless the horse is unwilling but even then, some horses will buck through the pain and resist the direction of the rider.
It is in the situation that many riders will resort to other methods to train the horse. Some of the most successful horse trainers use different methods but building relationship and trust is one of them.
How to Harness a Strong-Willed Child the Right Way
Children can benefit from a harness, but not one placed in their mouth. This kind of harness is one that requires more things to be put into place successfully. When a child bucks out in rebellion, you need to use other methods, as well. Here are some that we have used with success.
- Set Up House Rules – Boundaries are so important to any child, but for a strong-willed child, it is imperative. Don't go by the seat of your pants in parenting, but parent with purpose. Decide with your spouse what rules are most important and be sure to choose things that really matter to their heart, not just how things run in your home.
- Set Up Consequences to Breaking the House Rules – Setting up consequences for disobedience and rebellion before things happen will eliminate the stress in the moment and help you to parent with purpose not by emotion. Having a strong-willed child and an emotional parent is a bad combination for the home environment.
- Be Consistent in Enforcing the Rules – Once you have your house rules and consequences in place, you will need to be a united team in parenting, because it can be very tiring for a full time parent to be the only one doing the harnessing of a strong-willed child and will need to have a tag-team player often. Even if the child has been improving, and seems to have only a small step back, be consisting in enforcing the rules. Be consistent out of the house, and out of town.
- Correct with the Right Attitude – The worst thing a parent can do with a strong-willed child is correct with a wrong attitude. I know, I have done it and it has only made a bad situation… horrible! If you aren't able to correct with a right attitude, write a consequence for ‘cool down time', which will still be a consequence for the child but allowing the parent time to cool down, gain perspective and be ready to parent with purpose.
- Praise Good Choices and Improvement – When your child is showing improvement, even in the little things, give that child praise. Hug them often and show them with your words, just how proud you are of their accomplishments in choosing obedience. Speak positive in their life, knowing that they were uniquely and wonderfully made.
- Empower the Strengths of Your Strong-Will Child – A strong-willed child has overlooked strengths that need to be empowered. Find situations around the house that will empower these strengths and give them the sense of accomplishment and worth in the family.
- Provide Good Things for Free Time – A strong-willed child can be more difficult with free time that isn't spend well. Their minds need to be engaged with good things. Having hobbies and activities for them to do during their free time will help a lot when their strong-will would rather be devising other ideas.
- Use Good Moments to Talk About the Hard Times – Like everyone else, a strong-willed child doesn't like to go on and on about how their actions are inappropriate or wrong. Having the consequences and enforcing them quickly should be enough for them. However, we have found that when your home and family is in a healthy place, to talk with your strong-willed child about how their choices affected the environment of your home and hindered your relationship. Discuss possible ways things could have gone better, including any mistakes in how you parented them. The more you have open discussions about the good and the bad, the more you will win their heart.
Our strong-willed child is an adult now, and I wish that I could do many things differently. She turned out amazingly, despite our mistakes and still demonstrates a strong-will in many areas. I'm thankful she has such determination because I know that it serves a purpose and it just makes it so important that she learns how to harness herself, for her own happiness and home environment when she becomes a homemaker.
If this post encouraged you, this one will really help you – How to Stay Encouraged While Parenting a Strong-willed Child…