Thank you for joining this week’s We Get It: Support for Difficult Childhood Behavior. Every Tuesday in the We Get It series you will read about a challenging behavior and find advice on how best to handle that behavior.
How do you characterize a strong-willed child? Determined, stubborn, self-confident, narrow-minded – depending on where you stand or how you approach this, it can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse of some sorts and the truth probably lies somewhere in-between.
So let’s take a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages:
Nico is a very bright and determined young little boy, who, if he sets his mind to it, can achieve almost anything, even things that you would normally not expect out of a 2-year-old (33 months to be precise). If there is something he wants to get or do, he will take the time to analyze whatever is ahead of him and figure out what he has to do to get it (or get to) and that is great. He also has the self-confidence to stand up for himself and his opinion/what he wants and will argue until the end (even though him mixing French, English and Niconese does not make it easy to argue, so a lot of his argumentation is a more or less angry “NO!”), no matter if he is right or not.
There is a thin line between determination and stubbornness and Nico absolutely can be stubborn like a mule sometimes (and that is an understatement actually), which can cause pretty big issues and disruptions, if he does not get what he wants. At the same time the stubbornness also can lead to narrow-mindedness in the sense of not allowing any other opinion or notion (aka rhyme or reason) and maneuvering himself into a dead end.
As mentioned above, a lot depends on either where you stand or the situation, which side of the line your child stands on and just as much depends on how you can deal with the situation. No matter if it is still determination or already stubbornness, you have to observe to see when the line is being crossed and adjust your reaction accordingly, as it will greatly affect the outcome.
One of the most important things is to pick your battles. Especially when the child is in a phase, where pretty much everything is a battle of wills, you have to learn the principle of give and take and you have to ask yourself: “Is it worth risking a tantrum for this?” And it is a tricky question on top of it, because at the same time you don’t want to set a precedence that the kid will try to feed off whatever you give in on, so challenges all over the place, eh?
You will have to lay out some sort of game plan, to determine which things you want/need to be adamant on and which ones you can cave in here and there. Nico, for example, has had this “I want what I want and I want it NOW!” for quite a while and pair this with his sometimes ridiculously short attention span will put you into a battle quickly and frequently. Sometimes he wants a cookie during the morning – so the question is, is it worth fighting and getting a tantrum over a cookie? Weighing nutritional values and peace of mind might give you an easier answer than when it comes down to a box of toys (or crayons or whichever other stuff a child can make a royal mess with) turned upside down for no reason and picking it back up.
Another tricky thing that will differ from child to child is, how to get past the stubbornness and on the other hand reinforce the determination of knowing what he wants and how to get it. Sometimes you will have to threaten with the loss of privileges, sometimes you will be putting a reward in front of the child’s nose in order to nurture his self-confidence, but as any kind of parenting technique the unpredictability of a child can make the best laid plan go to waste and put you back to square one, but then again – don’t we find us in that position way more often than most people would think?
Valerie is facing these challenge on a daily basis and she is combining the fostering of Nico’s self-confidence with teaching that in order to get something good, you have to be good, so in order to, for example, go to the farm, he has to have good nights without tantrums for going to bed or waking up the house in the middle of the night because he decides that he has slept enough. This is a more positive approach to dealing with this particular trait and one that can easily be combined with other goals.
Raising a strong-willed child can be a challenge that can come in equal parts frustration and reward, because the child will not make the distinction as to which side of the line it is standing on, but do your best to raise a child with the self-confidence to stand up for himself and what he wants without falling victim to the master manipulator that each of our little angels has in him and that will take advantage of even your slightest weakness. Be strong and stand your ground! (1262)