Teaching the Strong-Willed Child at Home
I used to laugh when my mother-in-law, Darlyne, told me how my husband was a strong-willed child. That was until our daughter turned out to be exactly like her dad.
A scrawny high schooler, John was told he’d never make it in the Marines. So he joined. He not only made it, but he graduated top of his class. In the military, he stayed true to God, even when alcohol and women were readily available to him. All through life, he has lived as a man of honor and excels in his work. His strong will has taken him far.
This, of course, wasn’t comforting as I dealt with my own strong-willed child. Leslie was a sweet baby doll her first year of life, but things changed once she turned 2. She’d have tantrums if she didn’t get her way. She would hide behind me and refuse to talk when people approached her. If I gave her a blue cup, she wanted the red one. If I offered a cookie, she’d want a cracker, and vice versa. Each day was a battle—my will against hers. There were days I loved my child but didn’t like her that much.
Leslie is witty, intelligent, and extremely strong-willed. This meant when she was growing up we would often find ourselves at odds when it came to homeschooling. Getting her to focus on schoolwork was a daily fight. I had to apply the same principles to home school that I had used to raise as a busy, obstinate toddler.
Maybe you have one (or more) kids like this. Here’s what I’ve found helpful when teaching a strong-willed child.
Narrow The Choices
Offer two choices, and make it clear that your child must pick between the two choices. This helps them have some level of control while establishing healthy authority as a parent. Of course, there are subjects that must be covered and your child needs to learn the topics that are required. But could they paint their own map of the world instead of coloring a prepared one? Could they jump rope while reciting times tables instead of sitting at the table? Choices can include the method of learning as well as the delivery of the answers.
Stand By Your Word
If your child disagrees, don’t give in. Once they realize that bad behavior won’t get them what they want, they will back down.
With my child, Leslie, instead of offering a blue cup and her demanding a green one, I’d offer both colors and let her pick from those two. Of course, she’d then want the red cup, but I didn’t give in. She had to pick between the two. This worked for clothes, snacks, and other things. I’d still give my daughter a choice, but I’d limit those choices. After a while, the battles stopped. She soon understood that I wouldn’t give in to her whines.
Focus Their Strong-will On Positive Things
Help her channel her energy into positive activities at home, like exercise, musical instruments, or writing. Strong-willed kids often battle with having excess energy. Help them focus on that by giving them extra breaks or activities that give them opportunities to expel that pent-up bounce. If your family schedule permits, consider allowing your child to play in a recreation sports league such as basketball or soccer. The extra running and interaction with others can give them an outlet for their busy mind and body.
Fill Their Love Tank
Even while at home, take steps to speak your child’s love language. Make their favorite breakfast, make a special dessert or coffee drink, and sit with them on the couch, or take a walk just the two of you. As you build that relationship, they will start to open up and trust you more.
My daughter is a quality time and gifts person. She gets excited when I bring her a pack of gum or her favorite lip gloss from the store. She loves it when I take her to coffee or when we go to lunch. As we spent time face-to-face, my daughter opened up about everything she was dealing with. She even confessed to some areas that she struggled with. I discovered that she wasn’t as strong as she liked everyone to believe. When I filled her love tank, her will weakened, and we built a bond that has remained for years.
Although you might be facing fear and anxiety about schooling your strong-willed child at home, don’t dwell on those feelings. The most important thing to remember is that what your children need most is your love and support. Learning can take place in many ways. But if our kids feel loved and safe, they will continue to excel through any situation that comes along. Remember, you are your child’s biggest fan–show them you believe in them and that you’re there to help them through this.
Together, we will succeed!
Hope and Refreshment for Homeschooling Parents
Need more ideas and advice on homeschooling? Pick up a copy of Homeschool Basics. Receive tried-and-true homeschool advice from veteran homeschooling moms Tricia Goyer and Kristi Clover. We dish out practical help on getting started and staying the course. Homeschool Basics will remind you that the best homeschooling starts with the heart. Packed with ideas to help you push aside your fears and raise kids who will grow to be life-long learners.
Kristi and I believe that homeschooling can transform your life, your home, and your family. Mostly, we believe homeschooling can truly prepare your children for the life God’s called them to live.
Don’t let doubts hold you back any longer.