raising a strong willed child

Do you have a strong-willed child? Can you relate to these secrets about strong-willed children? I know I can!

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If you are new around here, you may not know that my day job is family photographer and I am raising a strong willed child.  I get my hands on a newborn here and there, and I love it!

Newborn sessions are always different.  Sometimes, babies are super sleepy, and others are wide awake, some move constantly and have no interest in being swaddled, some love being swaddled.

This question comes out of my mouth, “Was she/he like this when you were pregnant?” Always.  One of the most amazing things I have come to find with all four of my kids, is that they all showed their personalities long before they were born.

I could tell you my oldest would be pretty compliant, based on his pregnancy. I could tell you my youngest two would be easy going babies, just based on how mellow they were while I was pregnant.  And, I could tell you, beyond doubt, that my second would be a stubborn little bugger!

From the time I could feel movements from him, I knew he was going to give us a run for our money.  He only moved when he felt like moving.  No amount of poking, shaking, or switching of positions would make him move unless he wanted to.  Obviously, I don’t know THAT is why he wasn’t moving, but let’s just say it goes with his personality.

Here we are today, and he is definitely our strong willed child.

10 things I have learned, raising

strong-willed child

Do you have a strong-willed child? Can you relate to these secrets about strong-willed children? I know I can!


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3 books about raising strong willed children


And now, our experiences with raising a strong willed child…


1. If you choose to say “yes” to something, you’d better think long and hard about that answer.  You will NEVER be able to change your mind. Ever. I promise you.

Nothing my husband and I have ever agreed to has ever been forgotten, and it makes no difference what the circumstance is.  It has become a common response for us to now say, “I can’t agree to that because if I do, and I can’t next time, you will be upset.”  (in some form or another).

2.  They tend to excel at things they want to do.  When this strong willed child of mine decided he wanted to ride his bike without training wheels, he did. When he decided he wanted to learn to skate, he did.

When he decided he wanted to build a lego set requiring a not-so-simple set of directions, he did. When he decided he needed to make his own hat for crazy hat day at school, he did.  Now, as his mother, I think he is one of the brightest little guys, I know.

However, there is no part of me that questions the reason he was able to accomplish this short excerpt of a long list of accomplishments for a not quite seven year old.  It really has less to do with his abilities, and more to do with his sheer willpower.

If the kid wants it/ dreams it/ desires it/ envisions it, so it shall be.  God-willing, this attitude is going to take him far in life.


3.  If they don’t want to do something, they won’t.  This has created a lot of work for us, as parents.  There is nothing more irritating than trying to convince a kid that they WILL like something if they try, or sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.

Of course, I don’t mean something that will hurt him, and I don’t mean to imply that he isn’t allowed to have his own 6 year old opinions.  There are times we all do things we don’t want to do though.

At six years old, sometimes he is required to share with his brothers, or be patient and wait for a drink, etc.  We have learned that how we approach a given situation when we know he isn’t going to be “happy about the situation” makes a difference.

(side note because I am pretty sure this particular one will be misinterpreted:  I am definitely NOT saying there aren’t times he doesn’t get what he wants. Believe me, this happens perhaps more than it should!  I’m also not trying to suggest that we tiptoe around him.

As a strong willed adult, I can tell you that my response to almost anything I’m not a fan of, can largely be predicted by the way it was presented to begin with, the only difference is I am almost 34, so I have learned how to behave like an adult.  He is still a child).

4.  No amount of begging or pleading, will convince them to “try” to go to the bathroom.  Clearly, I cannot force him to pee.  Unless he wants to, forget it. Make no mistake, this does not mean he doesn’t actually HAVE to go, in fact, it actually almost guarantees he will ask to go 2 minutes after you leave the house.  True story.

5.  The tone of voice we have when suggesting something will make all the difference in the world.  If i sing, “Do you want to go to the doctor’s and get some shots??!!!”

The reaction will be better than if I speak it normally.  Okay, maybe not that specifically, but you get my point.  There have been times when I have, unknowingly, made a big (happy) deal out of him cleaning his room, and he goes upstairs a day or two later and does the same thing.

On the contrary, I have gone upstairs to a messy room, and gone crazy telling them to clean up, and he just looks at me.(I’m sure this one pertains to all children, strong willed or not.  Having said that, my less strong willed children, respond differently depending on the circumstance)

6.  They can force themselves to never go to bed.  Ever.  Never, ever, ever, if that’s what they decide.  Raising a strong willed child means if he doesn’t want to sleep, you are going to be one very tired mama (or daddy).  At 2 years old, I told my doctor my dear son would not sleep through the night.  Now, I am sure there are those that would pick apart our bedtime routine, and claim these were his issues, but we have 4 kids, and only one of them has the willpower to force himself to stay up all night long if he wants to.  Seriously.  It’s a God given talent.

He will be the envy of his college roommates when he needs to pull an all-nighter to study (that’t the ONLY reason he would pull one…).  I have never met someone that can force themselves to stay awake through an entire movie despite sheer exhaustion, just because they want to see the movie (even if they actually have no interest in it).  Ridiculous.

7.  They can throw a tantrum like none other.  If you are blessed with a strong willed child, there will most likely come a time when someone asks you, “is he always like this?”

When your child is a toddler or preschooler. It happened to me…  resist the urge to cry, and realize that they either have no kids, or their kids are perfect, which is something extra special.  (that last statement is dripping with sarcasm).  Three out of four of my children have thrown tantrums in public, more often than I would like to admit.

The only reason I am not saying four is because the baby hasn’t gotten there yet.  There are times when I want to disappear into a corner, but, most of the time, I am not really bothered by it.  It happens.

Of course, when my strong willed “diva”, as we sometimes call him, decides to throw a tantrum, look out!  He does not care who hears him, and he can keep it going for a very long time.  Willpower.  Thankfully, as he has gotten older his tantrums have lessened, but that doesn’t mean he has lost that willpower.

8.  They are usually not a fan of change.  This one drives us crazy.  The funny thing about it is, I am personally not a fan of change either.  Yet, it drives me nuts!!  If we take baths before bed, there had better be a bath before bed.

If we pass by dairy queen 3 days in a row after school, it is now part of our routine, and changing it will be work.  We have learned to preface a lot of things with, “just because we are doing _____ today, does not mean we can do it every time.”

See number 1.  You are absolutely under no circumstances allowed to change your mind ever.  As I said, I am not a fan of change either, I’m not knocking our SWC’s refusal to accept a mind change, I have trouble with that too.

9.  They are independent.  See number 2.  When our strong willed child wants something, he finds a way to get it.  This becomes more and more evident as he gets older.  My husband often teases me because I am far too impatient for a “honey-do” list.

If there is something on that list that isn’t getting done quickly enough, I will find a way to do it myself.  I have moved couches by myself, cut down shrubs, painted entire rooms, and put up Christmas lights outside on my own despite the fact it would have been much easier to  wait for help.  I can’t.  I just can’t.

I may moan and bellyache that raising a strong willed child is making me crazy, but ours comes by it honestly.

10.  They have so much love to give.  All of my kids have so much love to give.  Our SWC loves so much more intensely though.  It’s almost as if he needs to make sure that you KNOW how much he loves you.  We jokingly say that he does that because we work so hard with this one!  That said, the pay off is huge, and so worth it!

Being a mom is not an easy job.  Having kids with different personalities (and they all have different personalities), makes it even more challenging.  It’s like you have to relearn how to be mom with each child.  So, the next time you’re struggling with one of your kids, just remember, you’re not alone.  We’ve all been there!

Do you have a strong willed child?  Would you add anything to this list?

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raising a strong willed child — 29 Comments

  1. Number 1. Oh my goodness. I have learned to tell my son, “The answer is not yes, the answer is not no. The answer is let me get back to you. I need to discuss this wis your dad.” I think parenting a strong willed child requires a strong unity between parents so you can hold your ground. Not that life is a battle, but sometimes we are war weary from all the arguing and we might feel like we want to give in. Seeing my husband as my teammate really helps.

  2. Wow, I can definitely relate to this! Seems like I have to strong willed girls on my hands. :) It’s super exhausting for sure right now but I know that their personalities are going to take them very far in life and they won’t let anyone take advantage of them!

  3. I had to read this twice because it sounds exactly like my child! From the moment he started moving during pregnancy, I knew that he was going to be strong-willed. I deal with pretty much everything you talk about here on a daily basis. The whole bathroom thing, every single time. I go to take a shower and ask my son if he needs to go potty. (Mind you, he’s been up for at least an hour and hasn’t gone yet.) Every time he tells me no. Then as soon as I get in the shower he comes running in the bathroom screaming he has to go pee pee. So, I feel your pain. :) Let’s not even talk about change. It is the most painful thing and I am very much like you, I hate change too. Thank you for sharing and making me feel like my child isn’t the only difficult child out there. :)

  4. you are definitely not alone, laura! luckily, my SWC has gotten a bit older since this post was first written so the bathroom thing isn’t as big of an issue. haha!! things do get easier, but he is definitely different than our other children. one day, he is going to use his powers for something amazing! i have to remind myself often that he is my child through and through. we are cut from the same mold. lol!

  5. This list is absolutely on target! For those of you with younger kids, I’m here to attest that all ten of these points STILL ring true with my high school aged SWC. So… enjoy the ride! : )

  6. Thank you for writing this! My oldest is strong willed and for the longest time I just beat myself up saying I was the worst parent ever as I couldn’t figure out how to get him to sleep, eat, get dressed etc. However at 4 years old he rides his bike without training wheels for hours, knows how to make cookies from scratch on his own and rummage through the fridge to throw together a meal for himself. He also knows how to avoid going to the washroom at all costs including getting himself constipated which took over a month to work through and the tantrums are so epic, half the street knows he’s not happy. And just like yours, he does love intensely.

    Oh the funny thing was that the moment he was born he was strong willed, when the nurses were weighing him right after birth he managed to stand up, screamed at them and then peed all over the doctor. He was angry!
    His latest strong willed activity has been to convince other kids in any activity he’s at to follow him. So he led his soccer mates astray and had them all do circle time with him instead of play soccer, then at swimming he convinced the rest of his class to splash the teacher instead of swim. Part of me wants to yank him out of the activity, but the other part of me is curious to see how the instructor will handle it. lol
    I’m excited and scared to see how he will turn out, I hope and pray he will use his force for good not evil.
    Again many thanks for posting this article!

  7. I tried to comment last night as I was hiding in the bathroom because it is the only room with a door that locks and my strong willed child would not go to bed, but my iPad wouldn’t let me. This post is so spot on that I had to come back, find it and read it to my mom. We’re about to start potty training and I am dreading it.

  8. Your observations are wise and witty. Good for you for not getting all upset about the “little” things. I am a mother of a strong-willed child who is not 42 years old and has a strong-willed 2-year-old son of his own. (Ha-ha-ha-ha!)

  9. What a great post!!! My 19 month old, redheaded spitfire is already asserting his independence and strong will. As much as I love that he is growing confident in himself, sometimes it is tough for mama to handle. These are some great tips as I watch him grow! The sing-song voice is most-definitely a lifesaver! Thanks for sharing <3

  10. This is such a fun topic for a post. My mom always tells me my strong-willed daughter is payback for the way I acted with her…and I believe it! :)
    xoxo, erin | sandsunandmessybuns.com

  11. I have a very swc and have done so much reading on it. I read about swc mostly to keep myself from going crazy and remind myself and my husband that our swc isn’t insane. :)
    This article is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Thank you. And you are 100% correct…. Strong – willed kids are the most loving. I have 3 kids and he is the one that shows kindness and love the most. He will be the one to take care of us in our old age.
    We have found that when our sw son is close to and having a tantrum that a hug right away helps us all approach the situation more calmly. That is the best advice I’ve ever gotten on parenting period.

  12. oh, you are sooo right!! 1. reading about other SWC makes you feel like YOU aren’t crazy, AND your kiddo isn’t either!! and 2. a hug really does make a difference. when i actually take a minute to breathe and think about how to react, the situation is much less likely to escalate. of course, i am human too, and sometimes, i forget to chill! 😉

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  18. God!!!, I felt like you were talking about my child!! He is just like that!! He shines every where he goes because of his determination in any situation no matter if my husband an me have to get out excusing him.. when he says NO there is no human power that can convince him, It have been dificult living in Colombia, at the school they have had to learn how to deal with him because he has shown his point that he is not going to allow himself to do their way things, if he just don’t want to… thanks a lot! You have open a window for us to parent him..

  19. Josmary, I am so grateful that this struck a cord for you. It is really difficult to parent a strong willed child when you don’t feel you’re alone. I really hope that you are able to get the help and understanding that you need.

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