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Ten Tips for Positive Parenting Your Strong-Willed, Spirited Child

1. Avoid power struggles by using routines and rules. That way, you aren't bossing them around, it’s just that “The rule is we use the potty after every meal and snack,” or “The schedule is that lights-out is at 8pm. If you hurry, we’ll have time for two books,” or "In our house, we finish homework before computer, TV, or telephone time." The parent stops being the bad guy.

2. Your strong-willed child wants mastery more than anything. Let her take charge of as many of her own activities as possible. Don’t nag at her to brush her teeth, ask “What else do you need to do before we leave?” If she looks blank, tick off the short list: “Every morning we eat, brush teeth, use the toilet, and pack the backpack. I saw you pack your backpack, great job! Now, what do you still need to do before we leave?” Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to rebel and be oppositional. Not to mention they take responsibility early.

3. Give your strong-willed child choices. If you give orders, he will almost certainly bristle. If you offer a choice, he feels like the master of his own destiny. Of course, only offer choices you can live with and don’t let yourself get resentful by handing away your power. If going to the store is non-negotiable and he wants to keep playing, an appropriate choice is: “Do you want to leave now or in ten minutes?”

4. Give her authority over her own body. “I hear that you don’t want to wear your jacket today. I think it is cold and I am definitely wearing a jacket. Of course, you are in charge of your own body, as long as you stay safe and healthy, so you get to decide whether to wear a jacket. But I’m afraid that you will be cold once we are outside, and I won’t want to come back to the house. How about I put your jacket in…...

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