Over the School holidays I caught up with a friend. As we were sharing our parenting journey our teenage girls decided to join us. My friend’s daughter queried what’s strong-willed, and am I strong –willed. The reply from her mother was careful and sensitive as my daughter was listening tentatively. Much to our surprise my daughter boomed in with” It’s my way or the Highway” LOL.

This week my daughter has been home sick from school, I shared that today I am creating some space for me to write a blog, which was followed up by an inquiry, “What are you writing about?  I replied “Working with Strong -willed Children”, With a cheeky funny look, she queried, “Why”?

Most of the people I work or connect with find it very challenging and at times very frustrating parenting strong willed children, because of the different parenting approach we had in our childhood and adolescent years. Back then it worked for many parents to have a Drill -Sargent approach, as kids were told to jump and said how high? Obedience was expected and punishment, threats or anger was commonly experienced for disobedience or for not following through.

Boy have things changed. With Social media, technology bringing the world to our finger tips, and children knowing their rights we have certainly made a lot of headway and our kids know more now at an earlier age than we had access to in a couple of decades.

Whether we have infants or adolescents as parents we need to be continually equipped with daily practical skills and tools to keep a loving connection with our kids, whilst both channelling their strengths and holding them firmly accountable.

A powerful tool, for me, was using choices 90% of the time before my child became resistant. This was not a natural default position for me as I was always ordered or told what to do. Initially I thought how do you give choices about brushing teeth, I just assumed it’s time to brush your teeth, go do it! Developing the concept, I discovered some choices,

  • do you want to brush your teeth now or in 5 minutes?
  • do you want to put the toothpaste on or do you want me to put it on?
  • do you want to start on your top teeth or your bottom teeth?
  • do you want to brush for 3 mins or do you want me to finish your teeth off for you?

Why not try an experiment this week, where is one area that you have huge resistance with your kid?

  • Is it brushing teeth?
  • Is it the morning routine and leaving on time?
  • Is it doing chores, doing homework or the use of technology?

Whatever it is write down several choices you could put around that task.

My Experiments:

1 For many years my son has hated washing his hair 
I was ready to give this experiment a go as we usually had arguments, protests and power struggles. The day before, I communicated to my son that it’s time to wash his hair, would you like to wash it tonight or tomorrow? After protesting that he doesn’t like to wash it I said, “I know”, and reiterated the question, obviously he said tomorrow. The following day I gave him lots of choices: did he want to wash it before dinner or after dinner, after dinner, I probed did he want to do it now or in 5 mins, and did he want me to walk him to the bathroom, or did he want to go alone. Once in the bathroom supplementary choices were given: did he want to wash his hair in the bath or in the shower, to turn the taps on and get the water ready or did he want me to, did he want to wash himself first or wash his hair first. The night went smoothly and since then only a few choices still remain around hair washing.

2 My daughter has had huge resistance towards chores. 
They are done when she wants to do them or if she feels like doing them. At about ages 7 and 8 she demanded payment for chores. The resistance and disrespect together with my threats and warnings took all the joy and fun out of our connection. I took on a different approach and shared with her that in a loving family everyone has a powerful role and contribution, and that we share everything in our family. The adventures, good times, sad times, wealth and contributions (chores) and that her contribution to the family is powerful. The choices I use with my daughter now are:

  • Do you want to empty the dishwasher tonight or in the morning before school?
  • Would you like to have the vacuuming done by Saturday or 3.00pm Sunday?
  • Would you like to start cooking dinner by 5.00 or 5.30pm?
  • Would you like me to help you with hanging the washing on the line, or would you like to do it by yourself. I can do it with you now or you can do it by yourself later?

Where can you implement and experiment with choices this week?