A question from Denise:
I have a son who is almost 3. He will begin preschool this fall. For the past few months he has been “strong willed”, er DIFFICULT is more like it. He is like this with ME only, and not his Dad. I am a SAHM and am with him the majority of the time. All I hear is that “he is going through a phase”. Well my sanity is out the window and my nerves are shot. So…..I am wondering if you’ve had this problem with any of your kids, particularly your boys, and if so how did you get through it?
Before I start let me give this disclaimer. I am a young mom, while I have 7 kids, my oldest is only 14. I have not finished the race, so to speak. I have made many, many mistakes. My children are not perfect. They disobey, and I am not always consistent. What I write are my opinions on what has worked or hasn’t worked for our family.
Your son is probably difficult with you and not dad because he is with you all the time. You are the one who creates and enforces all the rules.
When it comes to dealing with strong-willed children remember these four words.
Consistent, Correction, Compliment, Connection
Consistency- When you make a rule stick with it and do not keep changing the rules. Strong willed children need firm boundaries. I would also suggest that you keep the “rules” to a minimum. Say yes as much as you can. Try to decide if you are saying no out of convenience or because you are keeping your child safe, developing character, etc… If a child is allowed to get away with something ten times, and then disciplined for it on the eleventh time they child will continue to push the limits.
Correction- Create consequences for disobedience and apply them consistently every time. As a mom of a few strong willed children I will tell you this is the hardest part. You will spend a lot of time correcting your child. Persevere. The road is long, you will get tired of correcting. There will be days when that is all you do. Stay the course, it does work, but some child need more “help” in this area than others.
Compliment- Pay attention when they do something right, obey the first time, or show positive behavior. Let them know that you appreciate it when they do obey. I had one child who was (and can still be) particularly difficult. I try very hard to remember to praise him. I tell him what a good big brother he is, how strong he is when he carries in the groceries, what a good helper he is when he clears the table. These compliments always seem to help him work harder and continue with the positive behavior.
Connection- Children who are strong willed tend to be… well, frustrating. It is so important to show these children unconditional love. This does not mean there are not consequences for disobedience, what it means is that once the consequence has been applied the child is loved and hugged as if nothing ever happened. It is easy to physically pull away from these children, but they need a lot of hugs!
A few remaining thoughts. A child who is disobedient is disobedient. They might be tired, hungry, stressed, out of sorts, but these things don’t cause disobedience, they just allow what is already in their heart to rise to the surface. That being said, give your child as many opportunities as possible to obey. If you child becomes cranky after 7:30 pm do not make dinner reservations for the family at 8 pm. Put them to bed and get a sitter. Don’t load your child up on sugary foods and them expect them to sit still for a two hour piano recital. Create an environment that encourages obedience and does not set them up for failure.
As I said before I am not an expert, my kids are still young. So far, these techniques have worked for us. It is up to you and your husband to determine what will work best for your family.