How to Deal with a Strong-Willed Child

I have received interest from many mothers asking about how to deal a strong-willed child. I know the initial years are hard, especially if you are a first time parent, but these children are such a joy!

What I wanted to help all of you moms see is that although some children may require a little more attention, supervision, etc., they are all worth it! Lately many moms have expressed to me not knowing how to correctly parent their kids who have stronger personalities.

I started to read up on it, but to be honest I had the opposite struggle with most of my kids so I was no expert on this subject!

Good news is that I found a friend who has raised 4 beautiful children and almost all of them are extremely strong willed and LOVED to argue. She chose to remain anonymous, but I cannot wait to share with you her story and how she learned to be a better parent to her wonderful children.

Disciplining a strong willed child

Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

Parenting is one of the toughest and most rewarding tasks out there! Just like any job you may encounter, there are great days, and then there are the tough days…

On the tough days, it’s good to know that there are TONS of other parents out there like you who are doing there best to raise those awesome, strong willed kids!

I’m pretty sure that at least one of my kids could be a master negotiator when he grows up. It can be a simple task, telling him something good or bad, or requesting help, and he’s got a way of trying to negotiate something different.

As the conversations and arguments drug on, I saw what he was doing and worked to get it to stop, and want to share some strategies for helping so you don’t grow weary!

6 Tips for Dealing with Strong-Willed Kids

Before we get into the tips, lets dive in first to the question of, “What is a strong-willed child?” Some strong-willed child characteristics include:

  • They love to argue (and they can go on for what seems like forever)
  • They like to do what they want
  • They don’t like being told what to do

If after reading those you’re sure that you’re raising a strong-willed child, keep on reading for the parenting tips.

1. Talk it out & Set Expectations

Once you recognize the arguer/negotiator, sit down and have a conversation about why it’s not okay to argue with parents. Set a clear boundary that as the parent you set the rules and expectations for the family.

While your child may feel that they are in the right on something, it’s more important to give the respect to the parents (It’s the small things now that will lead up to the big things later on!)

If you feel comfortable with giving a chance for your child to request an alternative to your request, you can…but you may want to start off with a rule of no arguing at all to begin with. This will help to get them started on the right foot of being obedient first and requesting an alternative later on.

One thing that has helped a lot in our home is the We Choose Virtues Curriculum. I have the parent cards and use them at the dinner table or as needed. The cards and characters introducing the virtues are fun and engaging in the process!

I take two weeks to work on each Virtue and you can use everyday situations, the catchy phrase, and art projects to reinforce the learning. Obedience is a virtue that both kids and adults can work on, and this is a great way to introduce the line of no arguing to your children.

We choose Virtues Logo


2. Pick Two Outcomes that You are Okay With

If you have heard of the Love & Logic approach to both parenting and teaching this may sound familiar to you. Love & Logic is an approach to teaching both responsibility and reflective behavior.

I really like what Parenting Coach Stephanie Bryan says about it. “[Love and Logic] gives parents the tools to build a lifelong relationship based on respect, empathy, appreciation, and love. Parenting with Love and Logic teaches kids how to think and problem-solve from a very young age.”

One of the main things that I took away from this approach is to give kids TWO choices for solving a problem or approaching a task. (Make sure they are two outcomes that you are okay with.)

For example, for younger kids that are used to a routine of picking up toys you can say, “Would you like to pick up toys while it’s quiet, or would you like to have music on while we work?” You are still getting the outcome that you would like, but the process is in control of the kids.

Another example could be, “I would like you to empty the dishwasher. Would you like to start with the top rack or the bottom rack?”

Once you have used this for awhile, the kids will get used to being obedient at your request, while having control of their approach…which allows them to show respect to you, and responsibility with the task.

Mom holding child

3. Asked and Answered

Another approach that I use with my negotiator is the “Asked and Answered” response. The most important thing that I have learned about this is to STOP WHAT I’M DOING and LISTEN to what it is my child is asking for or requesting.

For example, my son asked me yesterday if he could get out his train set from up in the closet. I stopped what I was doing, looked at him, heard his request, and weighed whether or not we had the time to get out the train set before leaving for our evening activities. We did, so I said yes and he went off to play.

In the middle of playing with the trains he came into the kitchen while I was making dinner and asked if he could have a second afternoon snack before dinner. Dinner was less than 15 minutes from being done, so I replied with “No, dinner is in 15 minutes.” He started to whine and go on about how hungry he was…but instead of letting it drag on I simply stated, “You asked, and I answered.”

The “You asked, and I answered” is a clear cut way of staying calm in your response and sticking to your original answer without allowing them to wear you down. BUT THEY WILL TRY! 😉 Stick to the “You asked, and I answered” response and they will see that you are not allowing them to change your mind by whining.

Child in front of orange wall

Thanks Positiveparentingsolutions for the idea!

4. Be consistent

Don’t give up! Getting a new routine or approach to behavior in place takes adjustment and CONSISTENCY!

5. Choose your battles

If your child has been doing well for a length of time with being obedient and not arguing at every turn, start to give some more room and choose your battles on when to stand your ground.

6. Recognize and praise for choosing the right thing

Give authentic and direct praise when your strong-willed kiddo is following directions (and even more kudos if they do it with a good attitude. There’s a huge difference between obedience while dragging feet/complaining, and jumping into action with a cheerful heart!)

Give recognition in direct response on HOW they were listening & responding. For example, “I really appreciate that you got right to work and unloaded the dishwasher for me. Thank you for your help!”

Dad and son sitting in hammock

My Bedtime Routine Example

When my son was younger he really struggled with his bedtime routine. So, I came up with a bedtime routine chart that I hung in his room next to his bed. On the chart was his routine:

  • Get in jammies
  • Brush teeth
  • Tidy room
  • Get a drink/go potty
  • Pick out a book

For each category I would draw in a smiley or sad face on how he did while getting ready for bed.

We started out slow in our goal to reach all happy faces: two nights of all happy faces and he was rewarded with extra book time with Mom. (He loves his book time so this was pretty special.)

When he was able to go a whole week with smiley faces in each category he earned a night out with Dad. After the week of positive bedtime routines the goal got longer and longer in between rewards. We were eventually able to phase out the chart and he actually enjoys the routine that we have.

REd bear being held by child in red pajamas

Final Thoughts

To conclude, keep in mind that while your child may argue their point with you now, those same qualities will help them to hold their ground as responsible adults and leaders.

Keep up the good work parents – it’s an incredible journey! These kids are going to grow into such amazing adults and the way you disciple and encourage them now, will carry into their futures. And never ever forget, that one day you will miss these days! I promise you! So enjoy it now!

One of my Favorite Parenting Books:

Love and Logic Book

Parenting With Love And Logic Hardcover/Kindle

Ships Free with Amazon Prime (Try a FREE Membershipamazon)


Kindle Edition

You Can Do it!

I hope that today’s guest post helped you see that you can do it! By small and simple tricks, you will be able to slowly make progress with parenting a difficult child.

Before you know it, the arguments will stop and the tantrums will disappear! You can do this! I think my favorite part of this whole thing is that at the end of the day, all kids are great kids.

Look for their strengths rather than their weaknesses and help them grow and challenge themselves! You will be amazed at how great they will become.

Related Posts:

Parenting a strong willed child

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