I have a daughter who, from day one, has been headstrong. As an infant, she would scream until whatever demands she was making were met, and now, as a toddler, she will not listen to me at all. I have asked her repeatedly not to rip the pages in her books, and she does so looking straight at me to see if she can “test” her boundaries! When we go to the local pool she runs from me and goes straight to the deep end of the water and jumps in, even though she does not know how to swim! I feel like I am parenting a wild animal at times, and it is frustrating. My parents have mentioned that she needs more “discipline,” as if to suggest the consequences of her defiance should warrant spankings, such as they gave to me and my siblings. My husband and I, however, do not wish to spank her. Do you have any advice on how to get her to comply?
Count yourself lucky to be the parent of a strong-willed child. It’s a rough go of it when they are little, but these children are the world changers of tomorrow! Most parents figure out fairly quickly that they have a strong-willed child, because early on these children have a different set of standards that they hold us to. Their world has to bend to their desired expectations, and they are often not understood. Many times, parents interpret the behavior as defiance, when in fact, the motive behind the behavior is to see if cause equals effect. Give your daughter reasons why she should not rip her books, rather than just telling her to not do so. Explain that she can die if she enters a pool without supervision, and tell her how that happening would make you feel. As she grows, you will discover that she is inner motivated and will probably not be as likely to follow her peers as much as her own compass. That can be a blessing. Strong-willed children, if guided properly, will turn into adults that are entrepreneurs and not rule followers. These children are intelligent, often beyond their years; and using communication with reasoning and explanations usually works best.
Alisa Murray, aka “Auntie A,” is an a-winning columnist and fine-art photographer.
She holds a BS in Psychology.