If you’re the parent of a strong-willed child, you may be feeling at your wits-end. It seems that every little thing sets them off.
You feel like you’re walking on eggshells, afraid you’ll say or do something that triggers them.
Hugs, mama! I’ve been there, too. I’ve got two strong-willed kids. (Although, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of that label.) I love their determination and persistence, but some days it can be exhausting.
One of the biggest triggers for a strong-willed child is being told no.
If you say “no” to a strong-willed child, chances are tears and tantrums will ensue. (Am I right, or am I right?!)
I’ve got a simple, two-step solution I want to share with you to help you to say no in a way that avoids the trigger and the falling-in-the-floor screaming fit that follows.
Related reading: From Angry Mom to Calm Mom (In 0.5 seconds!)
Step 1: Validate your child’s feelings
Step 2: Offer a choice
That’s it! Easy, right? Let’s go through a few scenarios so you can get a feel for how this works in real life.
5 Examples of How to Say No to Your Strong-Willed Child (without saying no!)
Kid: “Can I have a sandwich?”
Mom: “You must be hungry!” (Validating their feelings.)
Kid: “Yes, I’m starving!”
Mom: “Let’s check the time. Hmm, it’s 5 o’clock, so dinner will be in a few minutes. Would you like a glass of water or a few grapes to hold you over?” (Offering a choice.)
Kid: “Can we go to the zoo today?”
Mom: “Ooh, the zoo is a super-fun place. That would be a nice thing to do soon. What zoo animal is your favorite?” (Validating their feelings.)
Kid: “I wanna see the monkeys! Let’s go now!”
Mom: “I like monkeys too. Should we read a book about monkeys or draw a picture of some monkeys?” (Offering a choice.)
Kid: “I wanna wear my flip-flops today.”
Mom: “Flip flops are really comfy! (Validating their feelings.) Let’s check the weather. Hmm, it’s raining. What kind of shoes keep our feet dry?”
Kid: “Rain boots!”
Mom: “Right! Would you like some help or would you like to put them on by yourself?” (Offering a choice.)
Kid: “Can I stay up late tonight?”
Mom: “You really like playing, so it’s frustrating when bedtime comes.” (Validating their feelings.)
Kid: “Pleeeeaase! I don’t wanna go to bed.”
Mom: “Would you like me to rub your back for a moment or sing you a lullaby?” (Offering a choice.)
Kid: “I want that toy! Can I have it?”
Mom: “Wow, that looks cool! I bet that’d be really fun to play with!” (Validating their feelings.)
Kid: “Yes! I saw this toy on YouTube!”
Mom: “Would you like to take a photo of the toy for your birthday list or draw a picture of the toy when we get home?” (Offering a choice.)
What if my strong-willed child pushes back on the choices?
Sometimes your child will happily decide on one of the two choices you offer. Other times, he may push back. (That’s totally normal!)
You could either calmly say, “I know this is hard for you, but those are your two choices, which one do you prefer?”
Or, you could say, “Well, those are my ideas, do you have any ideas?”
This empowers your child to brainstorm another solution. With this option, you’ll need to be prepared to negotiate and/or compromise.
In my home, some things are non-negotiable. (Like taking your shoes off before you come inside. #Germaphobe) But other things, I can be more flexible.
It’s important to decide ahead of time what’s non-negotiable and where you’re willing to budge.
What if I’m too exhausted to do the 2-step process?
Trust me, I get it. It’s so difficult to change the way we communicate. It may seem more natural to say, “I said no!!” Some days are just downright draining.
But if you know the word “no” will end in an all-out battle, it’s completely worth it to spend a little bit more mental energy validating your child and offering a choice.
It may feel unnatural at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. Practice makes perfect!
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