Parenting, in general, is a difficult job but raising a strong-willed child is much more challenging. The most popular term used to describe strong-willed children is stubborn, defiant, and on a more positive note, spirited. Nobody likes being told what to do, but your strong-willed toddler hates it. They will fight you almost every step of the way so they can be in charge of themselves.
Their fighting methods are in the form of epic meltdowns, screaming, and rolling on the floor until they get what they want. However, there are ways that you can respond to your highly emotional toddler that will help build their character instead of breaking their spirit.
Front loading is setting behavioral expectations for your child before entering a situation. For example, if you are going to the supermarket with your toddler, let them know how you want them to behave. Besides that, let them know the possible consequences or outcomes if they don’t meet those expectations. For example, if the rule is not to pick toys or snacks from the shelf and disobey, there will be logical consequences to their actions.
Avoid negative language
When your child is causing a giant tantrum in a public place like a supermarket or the park, the first thing you want to do is make it stop. At this point, you don’t have the patience nor the time to deal with this calmly. So you find yourself yelling at your child, saying how inconsiderate or selfish they are because they refuse to take turns on the swing, or holding the line at the supermarket because they want a KitKat.
A negative response might make your child feel like there’s something wrong with them, leading to self-doubt and feelings of shame. Strong-willed toddlers are highly persistent, and any parent will understand the situation and mind their business. There’s no need to apologize to those who don’t understand. Parents who have the memo know that the best moms are those with screaming kids.
It’s hard to get a strong-willed toddler to do what needs to be done when they are engrossed in what they’re doing at the time. For example, if it’s bath time and they are in the middle of a game. Your child might refuse to take a bath but instead of forcefully taking them away from their game, offer options that will have similar results. You can tell them to take their toy with them or give them a few more minutes to play before taking their bath. Either way, they do what you want them to do, but they feel like they have a choice in the matter, making them more compliant.
Kids acting out is a form of expression, and as parents, we need to empathize with our children. Try and understand what your toddler is trying to say. It can be trying and exhausting but know that you are raising a leader, and they need you. The goal is to lay the foundation and reinforce those leadership skills to use in the future.