I recently read a post on Facebook from a friend who has a strong-willed child. The little girl is preschool aged and learning to spread her wings. The caption was under a picture of a little girl slumped over in her chair with a look of disdain on her face, a cape, rain boots, and a unicorn headband perfectly centered on her head.
This momma’s words about how to parent a strong-willed daughter pushed me back 10 or 12 years when I was learning to parent a strong-willed child of my own. My daughter, who is now 17 is one of the strongest human beings I know. I’m amazed by her and the fact that I helped create her. But, boy have we ever bumped horns over the years! I say horns because I too was a strong-willed girl!
Parenting a strong-willed child isn’t easy. I’ve learned the hard way. Here are 5 rules for finding balance with your strong-willed child.
Give her space
Strong-willed girls, need space just to be themselves and make their own decisions. When they’re little, this can be challenging. For us, it was clothing choice.
I have vivid memories of walking through an Amish bakery with my daughter who was getting very odd stares. She decided that her attire for our outing was a cute jumper, but to express herself, she added in a tutu, boa, and cowboy boots. While I thought she looked like a total goofball, we were able to enjoy our day shopping because I didn’t fight with her about the ridiculous outfit.
The only rules for her clothing were that it had to be appropriate for the season. Beyond that, if she wanted to pair together stripes and polka dots, she did.
Today, learning how to parent a strong-willed daughter who is a senior in high school is much different. I still don’t give many boundaries with clothing choice, as long as it is respectable. However, the stakes are going up – she’s making decisions about college, career, and her adult life ahead of her.
I still give her space. We talk openly. She tells me what she wants. I tell her what I think, and she listens. But, ultimately – the decision is hers. Is she going to make some mistakes? Absolutely! That’s what life is about, and for a strong-willed child, they need to make their own choices – even if you think it’s the wrong one. They long for freedom and autonomy – you just have to give it to them in a space you can tolerate.
Love her wildly
Everything about a strong-willed child is wild – their personality, their creativity, and even their hearts. You must meet all of this with a wild love that embraces every ounce of who they are. This kind of love might look a little different than it does with your other children, and that’s okay. You have to love each of them in the manner they need and accept love.
Speak truth into her
Do you remember the scene from the Help when the maid is speaking words of truth into the little girl? She would get down on the little girl’s level and says, “You is kind, you is smart” and more. This scene models how to parent a strong-willed daughter.
She was building truth into this beautiful, tenacious little girl. And, in the end, that little girl grew up to be a determined, strong-willed woman who blazed her own trail. This is precisely what we want for our strong-willed daughters.
I’ve been doing this for years. And, I still speak truth into her today. It’s simple really. Just remind them who they are and what makes them unique and special. Speak these truths to them often. When she was little, I would put notes in her lunch box with powerful affirmations and reminders of my love. This was a creative way to remind her throughout her day that she was smart, beautiful, funny, and loved.
It can’t all be fun when you’re learning how to parent a strong-willed child. You must have limitations. I remember saying things like, “I will win this battle.” Funny thing is – she was probably like 3 years old when I had to start saying these things.
When you set boundaries, be sure to stick with them. If you say, we are leaving in 5 minutes – you better be walking out the door right around that time. This establishes that you are in charge. Now, you may have to carry them out screaming, but that’s ok – you stuck with your words. As they get older, they will learn that you mean what you say.
Learn to listen
You want your strong-willed child to listen to you, right? Just remember that listening is a two-way street. And, the more you listen, the more you’ll learn about who she is and what she wants in life. Listening is vital to parenting a strong-willed child.
I have to remind myself of this all the time! I’m busy – just like you. But, when I can give her 10 minutes of my time, she will talk my ears off! And, I love it!!
Offer respect and empathy
No one wants to feel like they have to fight for their ability to choose or be understood. This might mean you have to let them wear the crown and cape to church. But, in the long run, they will know that you understand, love, and accept them for the strong-willed girl they are deep inside.
Talk to her about the hard stuff
I will never forget one sermon I heard at church when my kids were little about parenting. One of the parents who had teens and young adults gave a simple piece of advice that I have clung to for 17 years – if you have an opinion about a subject, like underage drinking or sex outside of a committed relationship – talk to your kids about it. If you don’t – someone will!
Simple, but powerful words. I took this advice and have applied it to parenting a strong-willed child – and it’s worked! We talk about drugs, sex, and more because if you don’t have open lines of communication to tell her how you feel about specific choices in her life, she will make the decision on her own, without your advice. If you maintain open communication, she will hear your voice in the middle of any decision she makes.
I have to honest – this one is hard! These conversations can be uncomfortable. But, for every uncomfortable discussion, I’ve seen her make decisions that aligned with the truths I’ve told her about who she is and the values I’ve taught her in all of these talks we’ve had over the years.
Parenting a strong-willed child can be tiring. But, they are so worth it in the end. Hope these tips help you raise a strong-willed teen and young adult daughter. There will be days you want or even have to clip her wings, but in the end – she will fly to places you never imagined!
Keep moving momma – you’re doing great!!!