The following is the transcript from Episode 38 of Failing Motherhood -
Survive your Strong-Willed Child
Listen to it here: Failing Motherhood
You know you have a strong-willed kid if "Hurry up" means absolutely nothing. If you've tried threats, and bribes and punishments, and rewards, and none of it registers. If their emotions are on a 0 to 60 Richter scale, the highs are highs and the lows are lows and there's no in-between. Control is their love language. They can seem tender-hearted and cold-hearted in the same 30 seconds. They desperately want someone to hear them out and let them know it's okay to feel what they're feeling and that they're not a bad kid.
Strong-willed kids are a different breed. Some of them are firstborn, some of them are second born. Some of them, you may have known that from the very beginning, some may have struggles, just at home in the preschool years, and they usually do really well in school, or for other authority figures. And that can be very frustrating.
So let's talk about it. Let's talk about strong-willed kids-how they're different, and how you can become more and more empowered to better understand them and have really helpful perspective that allows you to find really effective ways to parent them and come alongside them. So let's dive in.
First of all, if you do, in fact, have a strong-willed child, somewhere between the age of one to seven, I really hope that you are on my email list that you have downloaded the Calm BIG emotions guide, that you're a part of my Facebook group called Parenting Wholeheartedly and that you're following me on Instagram where I share a lot more video resources and content because that's kind of my thing. My expertise is to help families that have strong-willed kids between the ages of one to seven, find more sanity and strategies, and solutions. Because they're extra hard to parent, and that stress causes effects on your mental health. That stress causes a wedge to divide parenting partners from being a united front. And it's just hard.
As if parenting isn't hard enough, trying to figure out how to get your strong-willed child to get their shoes on and get out the door every day is unnecessary added stress on an already difficult situation in a pandemic. So I hope that because you are a part of seeking out this podcast as a resource that you have gone through all the things that you're connected with all the resources that I have to offer for free. And soon I'm going to have, even more, I'm working on lots of stuff behind the scenes I'm really excited about but if you haven't gone down that already, join my Facebook group, do all the things and really consider what coaching would do for your family because it is specifically designed for you to figure out your strong-willed child and to help you feel confident like you know what you're doing and that you're actually able to feel really connected in your relationship with your strong-willed child then feeling like you're constantly in conflict with them.
And that is the that's the fear that's kind of the default: everything feels like a power struggle. Everything feels like it is so hard. And it's the end of the world. Because that's how it feels. That's how it feels to them. It's how it can feel to us. So we're gonna start off with a quote from How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen:
"The more we try to convince our kids that it's not that bad, the harder they'll work To convince us how bad it is."
And if you're already like "Yep, truth" then you are my people. Because we know when we've tried to dismiss or redirect or move on from something that our strong-willed kid is trying to convince us of how bad it is, it doesn't work.
And we so often are in these conflict moments, or in these moments of really big emotional reactions with our strong-willed kids, and we just want them to get over it, or want them to move on or just do the thing we need them to do.
And they are just so stuck. And it really is how their brain interprets things. And we can't change their perception of the world, we really can't change the way that they interpret information and the way that they perceive threats in the world.
Because the truth is, they are very, very sensitive. They're very sensitive to how they are perceived, they're sensitive to how threats are perceived on a higher Richter scale, they genuinely are pushed into more of a fight or flight mode when they're under a time crunch. Or there are other pressures of society like people looking at them, and they just get really flighty really easily, they may be slow to warm up to new situations, they may have a hard time with transitions, they are just on edge more quickly, more often.
And that is not a part of them that can be changed through the way that we're interacting with them. The first step is acceptance, accepting that that's how they tick, accepting that that is part of their personality. And that is the way that they see the world and we will not be able to convince them otherwise, that with maturity, with a lot of experience in practicing other coping strategies and non-conflict opportunities, during neutral times, they will be able to adapt more quickly to certain circumstances as they grow up.
However, in these early years, it is how they function. So after that acceptance becomes really understanding what you do have control over and being able to focus your energy on the right places, and finding the most effective parenting tools that are going to work for them.
Because like, as I said in the intro, threats, bribes, punishments, rewards, they don't motivate strong-willed kids, they don't register, they really don't change any part of their behavior or their perception in the moment whatsoever. They only add fuel to the fire usually.
So what do you do instead? You really do need a completely different mindset, a completely different toolkit for how you approach some of these power struggle moments, so that they don't become a huge tug of wars, and instead become opportunities to connect and to partner together.
So I love the movie Trolls. And in Poppy and branches relationship, I see so many similarities to some of the opposites attract aspects of even my own marriage where my husband can be Branch sometimes, and I can be Poppy. And what I love is the song where the lyrics say,
"it's you and me, it's us against the world".
And that really sums up the mentality that we have to have, when it comes to parenting our strong-willed kids, it's us against the world rather than us against them. Because when it's us against them, they immediately feel very defensive, they feel like they need to be on attack mode, they feel very quickly.
They feel misunderstood.
And when a strong-willed child feels misunderstood, they are stuck until they really feel like you get it. And that's where we missed the mark so often. And that is that can be the most damaging aspect of our relationship with them is when we don't allow for the opportunity to hear them out or the opportunity for them to have their big feelings and the opportunity for them to really feel like they have someone who's on their team and on their side that has their back.
And instead, make them feel like they are wrong to have those big feelings or make them feel like nobody thinks like them, nobody gets it.
That can be really alienating.
That can cause a divide in our relationship that will cause them to later on, as they get older, not trust us or come to us with things that they don't feel like we're going to get.
So the early years really do set the expectation for our relationship and the way that we want them to see us as a partner on their team. And the best way that we can do that is in these moments of conflict or big emotion, to allow them to feel understood to allow them to feel like it is us against the problem they're trying to solve, rather than it's me against you in this moment.
And a really powerful way that you can do that is just by really not making it a power struggle. And I know that that's easier said than done. But I practice this day in and day out and have for seven years with my strong-willed child. And it really is a choice.
Creating a power struggle is a choice.
It comes down to...
"how am I going to choose to react? Am I going to add fuel to this fire? Or am I going to defuse this fire? Am I going to sit here and be uncomfortable or am I just gonna try to rush things to the end and fix the problem so that I can feel better?"
So much of our relationship with our strong-willed child comes down to opportunities for growth for us, they point out the things that we still have yet to master ourselves, which is a lot of those things like sitting with someone else's big emotions, being able to be uncomfortable when there isn't an immediate fix or solution, being able to know that we can be okay when they're not okay, being able to understand that there is a natural progression to processing emotions that is healthy, and that we should be encouraged.
And so much of this growth is not things that we've mastered before they were born. But instead, it's pointed out through this journey of being able to parent them well, and we have the opportunity to go on this journey of growing up alongside them.
This is not easy.
This is why I have made it my mission to come alongside parents that are in this journey that are knee-deep in this because it is not easy. And the damage can be when you do pick up some tips or tactics or, you know, short little quotes or things that can educate and inform your parenting decisions. But they actually make things feel more complicated. And like you are only realizing how much you don't know you don't know. And that can feel very overwhelming and intimidating.
It really can come down to some very simple mindset shifts, and other empowering parenting tools that make it a game-changer in your relationship.
So a few of the takeaways I want you to have from this episode.
#1 - Your relationship with your strong-willed child, they want to work for a good boss, a good boss, is the same type of mentality of leadership that we would want to work under ourselves. Whether we're 22, or whether we're two, the same aspects apply. A strong-willed child wants to feel like they have dignity and mutual respect in a relationship. They want to feel like they're able to have a voice and feel empowered with meaningful opportunities for choice and an opinion. They want to feel like they know what's going on, and have a lot of control and really good ways that we can leverage that or win-wins for both of us. And they really want to feel like they the person that is quote-unquote, in charge, has their back sees them for who they are, and gives them the benefit of the doubt, and really is coming alongside them rather than a hierarchy over them.
And you know, I'm sure if you're newer to positive parenting, you might say, "Well, of course, we're in a hierarchy over them, we are their parents like they have to listen to us."
And there's a lot to break down with that mentality of what we were handed by how we were parented that I'm not going to dive into in this episode. But I just encourage you to challenge that mentality of how much it serves your child and how much that has worked for you up until this point. But I can I can be happy to have that conversation another time.
So number one, the mentality of leadership that you would want to work under is the same type of mentality and leadership by example of a good boss that they really thrive under. And it's relationship-based. It is not tool-based, it's relationship-based.
#2 - I want you to understand with strong-willed kids is that they are very sensitive the way that they are reacting is genuine. Most of the time, it is not out of manipulation or out of waking up and just deciding to be bad or causing you to have a bad day. It is not an intentional thing that has anything to do with you. It is genuinely how they are feeling threatened, that they have an emotional reaction that they don't yet have the impulse control and the coping skills to handle themselves. And they really do feel like it is the worst moment of their life because they have so little life experience that helps them understand how things are, you know, perceived, and what is actually a big deal compared to not a big deal, everything is a big deal.
So we have to meet them there with that, we can't convince them otherwise, we have to meet them there and validate that. And when we do, then they can get out of being stuck and they can move forward. But it really is the way that they work. And they tick. And once we accept that we can work with it rather than against it.
So number one, work as a good boss, number two, their way that they see the world is the way that they see the world that it's a very big deal to them.
#3 - Power struggles are a choice. If you feel threatened by their behavior by their choices, you can deactivate that threat in your own nervous system, so that you're better able to respond and meet your own needs. And then turn around and be able to handle their spectrum of big emotions in a way that allows you to help regulate them and become the Safe Harbor and safe place an anchor that they need when they feel genuinely out of control.
Because most of the time, their behavior is a white flag that says help. I can't handle this, this is too much for me right now. And when we see them for that, and we're able to take care of ourselves well enough to say I'm your grown-up, I'm here to help I have your back. It's you and me, it's so against the problem you're trying to solve, then you're much less think of them as being an adversary. And instead, you're going to have their back and you're going to be their greatest advocate in the world.
So there's obviously a lot more I can say on this topic, but I'm going to stop there.
And I hope that that is fresh perspective, to be able to breathe life into your relationship with your strong well child's. But I'd love to know more about what you're struggling with more things that you feel like that would really help bridge this gap for you. And always know that this is why I'm here. It's, I'm here for you.
Because I want you to believe in yourself, I want you to invest in your family, I want you to feel confident in your parenting tools, I want you to feel like you have someone who gets you and that you're not alone. And that there are resources and help out there and that you are not a bad parent. And that's why I'm here as your coach to cheer you on.
But I'm also here for your little. I'm here for my Annie, I'm here to translate for these kids that don't have a voice in the world to really help all the grown-ups in their life understand them.
And I want them to feel understood, I want them to feel so connected to you so that they really do believe such healthy informational things about who they are and how they can contribute to the world. And that they come out of their childhood, feeling so empowered and ready to live the values that you've instilled, and be ready to change the world and fight for others in the same way that you fought for them.
And if you want that relationship with your strong-willed child, I am here to help you with the paradigm shifts and the mindset change and the parenting tools that back you up in that area. And that really, really changes the dynamic of the culture of your home.
So if you're ready for that kind of change for your family, I am ready to I would love, love, love the opportunity to just chat with you hear more about what's going on at your house, and see how I can help.
So you can always, always always, at any time, schedule a free call 30 minutes, no obligation, just so we can meet face to face over zoom. And I can cheer you on and let you know that you're doing a good job.
So when you're ready for that, schedule yours at wholeheartedly.as.me/call.
You're doing a good job.
Strong-willed kids are hard to parent.
You're not alone.
I believe in you and I'm cheering you on.