Parenting Strong-Willed Kids!

Often the things that we deeply appreciate in the people we love are also the ones that drive us most crazy! This is often the case for parents of strong-willed kids who deeply feel and fiercely act out and drive their parents crazy in the process leaving them feeling completely depleted! Parents – don’t fear! Your energy and joy can be restored! Read on…



  • Introducing the strong-willed child (SWC)
  • Exercise 1


Spirited, opinionated, intense, demanding, always negotiating, stubborn, temperamental, persistent, determined, overly sensitive, independent, assertive, confident…(and the list goes on)…these are some of the terms used to describe strong-willed children.

  • Do any of these describe your child?

Strong-willed behavior is actually quite common among children and many have some aspects of it, which can be both a curse and a blessing! What parent does not want a grown child who is confident, who knows what he wants, is determined, assertive and independent? I would guess that most of us even wish for that! While having a strong-will is certainly a gift in many ways, parenting these kids can be a huge struggle and source of frustration for parents.

  • A child’s behavior is a function of temperament together with parenting.

This means that while your child may have been born a certain way, your parenting of that child does make a difference in his behavior and ultimately in who he grows up to be! Different kids have different temperaments and some challenge us more than others. As my mother always says, “this is a growth opportunity” for us as parents, and as you will see in the following modules, the work of change really does rest with us! It is in our hands to help our children realize the positives of their temperament and to manage those less than favorable qualities.

If you are still reading this, I imagine that you are frustrated and exhausted, tired of always managing breakdowns and meltdowns?

  • Parenting is hard and to date…there is still no manual!

Whether you experience your child as “strong-willed,” “spirited,” “intense,” “demanding,” “difficult,” or “always negotiating,” the first thing to do in order to save your sanity (and his), is to start working on your relationship with him.

  • The first priority is to build that relationship back up, to strengthen it, by connecting in deep and meaningful ways with one another.
  • Our relationship with our kids is the single most important thing and the only foundation upon which any future discipline can be effective and sustainable.

Human beings are wired to connect. We are relational beings. Our kids want us (our presence and attention) more than anything in the world, even if they have odd ways of showing it at times. The SWC often acts, and feels, with a lot of intensity. Should we give him a big squeeze in the middle of his epic meltdown? Perhaps! But let us explore some ways to lessen those epic meltdowns in the first place, to restore balance and peace and to build that strong foundation upon which discipline and new behavior can later sustain itself.

Over the next four weeks I will introduce you to various tools and strategies that you can use to reconnect with your child, to reduce meltdowns and breakdowns (for both of you) and to begin to parent with joy, fun and ease once again! I invite you to jump right in, to stay on top of the weekly lessons, and to remember that sustained change is a process that takes practice, patience, and consistency! Like anything else, if you stay with it you will begin to see results!

Exercise 1 – Part A, B, C

  • Challenge Yourself!
  • Part A. Introduce your SWC to us, in this way:

3-5 things that challenge you (aka drive you nuts!)

3-5 things that you appreciate about your child.

These are not strengths and weaknesses or negatives and positives but rather behaviors and characteristics that you have noticed/observed in your child – some of which push your buttons and some that you truly love and appreciate! Go!

*If you wish to challenge yourself further, I invite you to begin a gratitude practice today. Pick up a “one line a day” journal or order on amazon and each day write something that you appreciate about your child. Focus on the good!

  • Part B. Know your triggers!

Pay attention this week and identify those moments when your blood starts to boil, when you react less than favorably for you, when you lose your temper with your kids. Ask yourself, what triggered that? What does he do that drives me to this place? Write it down! Make a list of your triggers! (when he says___, when she whines, when he negotiates, when she asks a million questions,…etc).

  • Part C. Create a Mantra!

Create your own little mantra (something that is short and easy to remember) that you can mumble to yourself when confronted by these trigger moments with your kids as you work through the modules this month! You might say “this too shall pass,” or “let it go,” or “stay present, stay present!” or “be the change,” or “grant me the serenity,” or…whatever works for you! Go!

Please share with us! Though it is not a requirement, this work works better when we are in communication, open and sharing with one another! Since there are no red tents for us to meet in and limited opportunities for mothers to be together in meaningfully connected ways these days…I invite you to ‘meet’ here!


  1. Jennifer Kaplan

    Part A. Challenges: a million questions, often hearing NO, constant negotiating/struggle, feel like i am talking to a wall, drama over even little things.
    Appreciate: his focus, determination, sweet, very observant/notices everything, smart!

    Part B. My own triggers: high pitched voice, not listening, crying for no reason, a million questions, “no!!”

    C. I like the serenity prayer!

  2. Thank you Jennifer! Great work! and FYI I love the serenity prayer too!

  3. Michelle Addy

    Part A: 1) Challenges: He loves to talk, and loudly, and does not allow others to speak when he is speaking, even when he interrupted the conversation. If someone else tries to talk or if he thinks you are not 100% focused on what he is saying, he will talk LOUDER and start from the beginning of his speech. He threatens that if you don’t give him his way (e.g., a snack, or dessert, or whatever), then he will do [whatever you absolutely don’t want him to do]. He also is oftentimes rude to people, even his family members, who did nothing to provoke him.
    2) Appreciations: He is very clever and I can have an adult-like conversation with him. His fierce determination will help him succeed. And, he can be very loving towards his younger brother.

    Part B: My triggers are loud noises and people speaking all at once, public outcries, and deliberately doing the opposite of what I asked.

    Part C: I was like this. I was like this.

    • Thank you Michelle for sharing that with us and good work on really looking within to identify your triggers and create a mantra that works for you. I invite you to take these appreciations and amplify them to your child – tell him how clever he is and what a loving brother he is!