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Raising Your “Willful Child,” Without Going Off The Parenting Deep End!

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 11:27 AM
Monday, July 23, 2012

Over 200 pairs of eyes are glued to me as my willful child screams, “ORDER ME MY MEAL NOW!”

My child has refused to order her own hamburger (as she has done many times before) and when I calmly tell her she can either order it herself, or go home without her burger, she goes completely berserk. Yes, I have entered into a “food fare nightmare”—with my formidable opponent, my eight-year-old child.  I feel my cheeks flush as public onlookers wait in complete stunned silence to see who will win—the big one or the little one?  What is worse is that somewhere I know that many of the people now staring at us have been here and have felt just like I have at some point in time.

The Four Parenting Keys to Taming Your Willful Child

Surprisingly, over my years as a family counselor, I have come to love working with willful children. These children have a fire in their belly, a spark in their eye and a feisty attitude that assures their future in walking to the beat of their own drum instead of blindly following the crowd—a trait many parents hope for during the teen years. Yet that day in the food fare I was worn out, embarrassed and on the verge of saying “I quit!”

Raising your willful child can be exhausting. Fortunately for me, I learned some commonsense parenting tools that eliminated nearly all future fights. Allow me to share some of these parenting tips that can support your efforts in taming your willful child.

Raising your willful child with these four parenting tips can help you navigate the emotional mine field successfully:

1. Use consistency. Follow through on EVERYTHING you say. Willful children are gifted at manipulating “chances” and finding loopholes to obtaining exactly what they want. Hold your ground as calmly and firmly as possible—whatever you do, don’t back down.

2. Develop patience. Waiting out a fight without saying anything (especially if a temper tantrum erupts in public) can be one of the most difficult, yet important, things you ever do as a parent. Willful children are bright—they know that the biggest weapon in their arsenal is to push your embarrassment button. Swallow your pride—do not cave in just because you think you look bad in public. Remember if you cave in, your child will learn to use this trump card every time they want their way in a public setting.

3. Talk less and act more. This works well, because when you get into a debate with a willful child you are certain to lose! This is why in my “food fare nightmare” example above I gave two simple options; to order the hamburger or go home without it (the talking less part); and then silently waited (the action part).

4. Take time out for yourself. Parenting children is exhausting (especially a feisty child). Find little ways to take time out yourself (share child care with a friend, hire a babysitter more, use extra hours at daycare) so you will have more energy and patience to draw from during the trying situations.

What Does the Future Hold for Your Willful Child?

These commonsense parenting tools tame the negative opposition, but let their beautiful spirit flourish. If you attempt to use traditional discipline practices and make your child do what you want, you face an un-winnable uphill battle.

Fortunately, commonsense parenting does not mean letting your child get away with murder! A commonsense approach uses firm boundaries, mutual respect and discipline—teaching a child to naturally learn and grow from their mistakes rather than fight you every step of the way.

In the midst of your next fight, you may wonder if there will be an end to the madness. I am here to tell you that there will be a resolution to your current dramas. In my case, these tips allowed me to triumph and actually enjoy raising a willful child.

This same child who gave award-winning temper tantrum performances in public and could bring me to my knees is now a responsible, respectful and enjoyable 17-year-old college student whose year ahead is completely paid by scholarships won. For her, and me we both won in the end. May it also be the same for you?

When taming your willful child remember to keep the faith, learn commonsense parenting tips and know that eventually if you follow the basic principles above “this too shall pass.”


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