You've got this, and we're here to help.
All children can wear a parent down. Like any other child, a strong-willed child has a unique personality that thrives on testing rules and often breaking them.
But as a parent, you understand that rules do apply in life, and it's important for your little leader to know there's a time and place to follow.
A part of you admires their inner determination — except when what they want collides with a boundary you've set at home.
The battle of wills typically runs a little something like this:
- A boundary is set. Then, the child tests the boundary.
- You remind them of the rule.
- The child crosses the boundary.
- You take something away.
- The strong-willed child breaks into fits of whining and yelling that don't stop.
- Your resistance wears thin and you give in.
- The cycle repeats itself, again.
- You end the day feeling like a failed parent.
It's a frustrating cycle, but it's important to know you're not alone — and you're not a failure.
We asked our YT Experts to share with us what complaints they hear most from parents.
1. Complaint: My child gets angry/grumpy/upset/sad/depressed/all of the above when I take his or her iPad/tablet away.
The path to solutions: Screens trigger a child’s nervous system much in the same way addictive substances like cocaine or heroin interact with anyone’s system because screens directly stimulate the “reward center” of the brain.
To counter the ill behaviors that parents find so frustrating, which are essential withdrawal symptoms, the first thing we need to do is drastically reduce screen time and increase activities that engage both the mind and the whole body.
Activities like spending time in nature hiking, playing sports or riding bikes and scooters outside, engaging in imaginative play that includes dress up and lots of body movement. Think: dressing up as a teacher and teaching school or pretending to be a pirate or imagining you’re Olympic athletes training for the gold.
These are wonderful ways to stop the screen withdrawal and make shifting gears easier for everyone.
Another great way to solve this problem is by limiting YOUR screen time and increasing your direct play time, listening time, talking time, or just-being-silly-with-your-kids time because there’s a lot of truth in the old adage of “monkey see, monkey do.”
The best way to solve this increasingly common problem is to find activities that bring you and your kids joy which also include these three key elements more often than you practice anything on a screen: plug into nature, move your body a LOT, and practice presence: of mind, of body, of speech, and of behavior.
Vicy Wilkinson, MA, CLTC, BCC is a board certified life coach specializing in helping individuals and families thrive using evidence-based tools & techniques. You can schedule a free first-time consult through her team’s website.
2. Complaint: “Why does my child do what I just told them not to do?”
For example, I see them running and say, “Don’t run, you’ll fall!” And sure enough, they run and fall! I thump my forehead, like “Duh! I just told you not to do that!”
The reason your child does this is because you are describing the behavior you don’t want them to do and just putting a “Don’t, No, Stop, or Quit” before it.
The mind operates in pictures, so doesn’t hear negative commands and is more likely to do what it sees. So whatever picture you create in children’s minds is what they are most likely to do.
So to fix this very common challenge all you have to do is describe a picture of the behavior you want to see, and teach the child how to do what you want if they don’t know. In this example, saying “Walk!” or “Watch where you are walking,” “Watch your feet,” or “Walk carefully” will all do.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is President of Parents Toolshop® Consulting, where she is an award-winning author, top-rated speaker, and parenting expert to the media worldwide. You can get more practical tips and articles at her blog on YourTango or her website: ParentsToolshop.com.