How to Nurture a Strong-Willed Child Without Losing Your Mind

Perhaps you feel like your child never listens to you. No matter what you do, they like to test your boundaries and push back on your requests. Sometimes, this even occurs when you ask them to do something they generally enjoy. You’re getting the sense that they’re being defiant for the sake of it.

If you have a strong-willed child, every day can seem like an ongoing battle. In the future, you may be proud of your strong-willed child because of their ability to stand up for themselves and advocate for their own needs. But right now, you feel like they’re pushing you to your limit! Here are a few parenting tips that might help you improve your relationship with your strong-willed child.

Identify “Problem Areas”

First, it’s important to consider when your child is most likely to try to argue with you. It could be when you’re getting them ready for school, as you’re sitting down for dinner, or when you’re asking them to brush their teeth. Knowing what sorts of “battles” you need to be prepared for can help you take action.

Give Safe, Reasonable Choices

Sometimes, giving your child a sense of agency and control can help prevent further arguments. This could include giving them a choice between different healthy foods, clothes that are appropriate for school, or even the activities they’ll do on a given day. Naturally, it’s important to maintain control over their environment. You don’t want them to try choosing options that wouldn’t be safe.

Create Predictable Routines

Children benefit from consistency. When you set predictable routines for your child and your household as a whole, they may be less tempted to give you pushback. That is because implementing a sense of structure gives your child fewer “windows of opportunity” where activities seem malleable or changeable. If your child knows what to expect and understands that you manage the household the same way day in and day out, they won’t find it so tempting to talk back or try to persuade you to do things differently.

Show Empathy And Respect

A strong-willed child does not like being talked down to. Even though they need guidance that an adult does not, they still crave the feeling of being treated like an independent person rather than facing condescension. Approach them with empathy. Even when you need to discipline them, explain why you ask them to do certain things. Treating your child with respect and listening closely can go a long way.

Focus On Natural Consequences

Sometimes, discipline is necessary. Once in a while, every parent might need to call for a time-out! However, focusing on natural consequences can be an effective form of gentle discipline for strong-willed children. For example, if they choose to play with a toy roughly and it breaks, it teaches an important lesson. If they insist on delaying certain tasks, and as a result, they miss an activity that they would have enjoyed, they might avoid the same behaviors next time.

Praise Positive Behavior

Finally, it is always important to give your child praise and acknowledgment for positive behavior. If your child does listen, make sure to recognize this. When your child goes through their routines without pushing back, tell them you appreciate it and are proud of them. Every child wants to feel listened to and loved, and going the extra mile to praise your child can strengthen your relationship.


Are you struggling to parent your strong-willed child? A therapist can give you valuable guidance. Reach out to us to learn more about our parent therapy.