Often I write about raising your strong willed or spirited son, but it isn’t very often that I write about raising the strong willed daughter. I am proud to have a daughter who I know will be an amazing leader one day, and that these qualities will help her become a wonderful contribution to society.
Strong-willed, spirited daughters aren’t the easiest to raise, their will and stubbornness can be downright exhausting most days, but their independence and creativity are inspiring and rewarding. In raising daughters, it can be tempting to tone down some of these qualities. It seems that part of parenting has traditionally been to break our children’s will or harness their energy. We want them to obey and conform, however, we also expect that one day they use these skills to lead with graciousness and kindness. When really, it is our responsibility as parents to foster these skills and to help them learn how to use their stubbornness and will positively as they grow and develop.
Raising (and embracing) a Strong Willed Daughter
Let’s break it down and take each of these perceived negatives (stubbornness, willfulness, and persistence), and talk about how we can foster these personality traits and help our children become independent and willful adults.
Stubbornness: This may manifest itself as wanting to ‘do things their own way‘ and not wanting the help of an adult. Take potty training, stubbornness could be a difficult quality, so we try to break their will, in an attempt for potty-training success. But, what if instead we use that to our advantage. Stubborn children love a good challenge, and they thrive on success. When parenting a stubborn child, think about what it is that you are trying to achieve, and how your child can enjoy giving you that result. Getting a stubborn child on board is half the battle. Avoid the verbal back and forth, ditch the idea that they need to listen because you said so, and help them get on board.
Persistence: This is the quality that can lead to those meltdowns in Target and can make you 10 minutes late for work because they had to tie their own shoes (despite the fact that they don’t yet know how to tie). Granted there will be times where their persistence fails them, and they still need your help in the end. It is our job to help them through these feelings and encourage them to try again.
Strong-willed: This is a word that when we hear together in the same sentence as toddlers, we breathe a big sigh and reach for a cup of coffee. This is the trait of your strong willed or spirited daughter that makes everything you do take twice as long and twice as much energy to accomplish. Like persistence, this trait helps kids stick to their convictions, doesn’t allow them to give up, and helps them fight for themselves. All good things as an adult right? So why is it that in toddlers we don’t view them the same?
How to Embrace the Willfulness
So how can parents take stubbornness, persistence, and a strong will and help their daughters be better for it? Without breaking their spirit? There are a couple of tricks:
–make it a game. Like mentioned above, stubborn kids love a good challenge and a game, and they don’t like the “because I told you so’s”. If you want them to clean up their mess, ask if they can do it in 20 seconds. If you want them to have success with potty training, make it fun by letting them choose new undies, discuss a reward system, bring them on board.
–give choices. You know that at some point throughout the day you need to go to Target and run to the post office. Ask your child which they would like to do first. In giving them a choice, you are also giving them some control.
–rephrase your ‘no’. ‘No’ is tough for kids to hear, it is especially tough for those with strong-will. An example of a re-phrased no would be, “we can go to the park tomorrow” instead of “no we are not going today”, or “you can choose a dessert after dinner”, instead of “no you can not have a piece of candy”. Using this positive language instead of negative language will go a long way.
–negotiate, but stick to your guns. If you get in a back and forth with your strong-willed one, think about where you can make some sacrifices that they might view as ‘wins’, but that ultimately gets your way as a parent. For example, it’s time for a bath, your child is having a hard time ending their play and getting ready for a bath. You can feel a struggle ensuing, and might typically grab your child, haul them to the bath, and not give in. (Which works, but to avoid a struggle, see that they are having a difficult time with the transition, and help them). Instead, maybe, “I am setting a timer for 1 minute, you have one more minute of play and then it is time for bath”. Often, this is enough to come to an agreement, and you’ve lost one minute, but ultimately the end result isn’t much different that what you set out to accomplish initially.
–reverse psychology. It is a wonderful tool to have in your parenting arsenal if used correctly. Example: “I bet you can’t eat 3 bites of broccoli!”
In conclusion, raising a strong willed daughter can be challenging, but as parents, we can set them up for great success in the future years by fostering the positive qualities of these personality traits