Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

You might have a strong-willed child if:

  • Commands are automatically disobeyed, just because it was a command.
  • A seemingly simple task becomes difficult.
  • A random stranger mutters in passing, “That’s a strong-willed child.”
Can you relate to this sentiment?
Can you relate to this sentiment?

That last point literally happened to me recently as my family and I were leaving the gym. My daughter uttered some unintelligible demand and when my husband and I didn’t react how she had expected, she threw herself on the floor and screamed. She wasn’t crying because she was sad. She was screaming because she angry. It wasn’t pretty. That’s when I heard the gentleman say, “That’s a strong-willed child right there.” Those types of things don’t offend me because it’s true and because it helps me know I’m not crazy in thinking it’s hard to parent her.

My son is pretty similar, although he was easier to deal with because his verbal skills were amazing, so he didn’t have as many tantrums as my daughter. He is, and always has been, incredibly independent, opinionated, and strong-willed. He started picking out his own clothes and dressing himself before the age of 2. If he wanted a snack, he would simply climb on the kitchen counter, grab his snack of choice out of the cabinet and carry on.

I’ve realized that these qualities that are so difficult to parent are the exact qualities we want in adults. Here are the top five most frustrating traits or actions for me to deal with in my children:


Just one of the many precarious positions I have found my son in.
Just one of the many precarious positions I have found my son in.

Oh, be still my heart. The positions I have found my children in would freeze the blood in your veins. Both of my children climbed out of their cribs before 15 months. However, I really do admire their problem solving skills. They want something then they figure out how to get it. I learned early with my son that the best way to keep him safe is to teach him to climb down safely. I follow the same protocol with my daughter. There really isn’t any stopping them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely remove them from the kitchen counter and the top shelf of their closet and I explain everything that is wrong with the decision to climb instead of asking for help. For those of you with climbers, they do grow out of it as both of mine are doing now. Every time your heart skips a beat, remember it’s those keen problem solving skills they are exercising. Give them plenty of opportunities to practice those skills.


I’m sure so many of you can identify with arguing with your kids. For us, it starts out as presenting facts as to why I’m wrong, which turns to coaxing then onto bribing (yes, my son thinks he can bribe me!) and then the straight-up arguing. In the moment, it’s very irritating, but when I step back and am able to see his logic continue to grow and develop, it’s kind of impressive. Luckily, when the arguing starts I stick firm with my standard answer of “I have already answered you.” My mother-in-law suggested it and it has worked wonderfully for us.

Always on the move!
Always on the move!

My kids are super active as most kids are. My husband is a high-energy individual who accomplishes more in one day than most people do in a week, and I’m thankful my kids will be the same way. Don’t be discouraged if your little one isn’t a good napper, I think it just means their little brains are going so fast and thinking so many things, they just can’t settle down. There are so many lazy people in this world and I’m thankful my kids just can’t sit still. It makes me excited to see what they will accomplish in their lives.

Stunt Man

Have you seen the children’s t-shirt that says, “I do my own stunts?” Well, both of my kids need that. They just do crazy things without warning. Crazy, weird things like eating detergent and jumping off any thing. If you can stand on it, my son will jump off it. They do so many stunts that I have Poison Control on speed dial. I know they do these wacky things because they’re curious. Children who aren’t curious aren’t interested in learning new things.

Not Sharing

Don’t you hate it when that little girl at the library takes one of the trains away from your child? It’s so awkward because you don’t know what to say. Well, could you please remind her to share because it’s most likely my daughter! She’ll learn to share someday, but for now I comfort myself with the fact that she knows what she wants and she goes after it. She knows it isn’t nice and is learning that you catch more bees with honey than you do vinegar.


That’s obvious. Ultimately, I’m thankful for independent children. It’s more challenging now, but I don’t think I’ll have to deal with forcing them to be responsible or get jobs. They’ll set their goals and achieve them because they don’t like anyone else helping them.

I want my children to become independent adults who think for themselves and stand up for what they believe in. I don’t want a rule follower; I want a person who does what is right because that is what is right, not what is morally acceptable for society. Please don’t think I’m in support of allowing children to do whatever they want, because I’m not. I may have different rules than some would think acceptable, but last thing I want to do is raise obedient, conforming children who want someone else to do something for them. Our society is filled with those types of people. My children have manners and they know right from wrong.

A daily reminder
A daily reminder

I bought this mudLOVE bracelet from Catching Fireflies several months ago because I needed a visual reminder to be patient. Most days I am thankful for these strong qualities in my children, but at times I need a little reminder that it isn’t my job to change those personality traits. It’s my job to harness, redirect and teach them to use their qualities for good and not evil. Hehe. If you’re parenting a strong-willed child, chin up. It’s a great gift even though most days it sure doesn’t feel like it!


About Meghan Zeile

Mom-in-the-know and local writer for Rochester Media. Always looking for tips with kids, family life, and fun local adventures. Contact at

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