Parenting A Strong Willed Teenager

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Characteristics of a Strong-Willed Teenager

Strong-willed or spirited children are usually mistaken as stubborn or rebellious. They are courageous, outspoken, and often believe in their own ideas. They know how to stand their ground, always test their limits, can argue with you perpetually, and are insistent on getting what they want.  Raising these kids can be overwhelming and a true test of your patience.

Strong-willed teens often have a plan for exactly how they believe things should go.  They want to learn things themselves rather than accept what others say. This can be downright frustrating for parents and teachers.  They desire to be “in charge” of themselves and have the tendency to bend or challenge the rules if you try to control their actions in any way.    

Spirited children can be great leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up to the things they strongly believe in.  They like to engage in power struggles and their stubborn persistence often incenses and tires people out. They are also not easily swayed by peer pressure.

There are certain characteristics that strong-willed children exhibit. If you have a teen who is ‘difficult’ or ‘stubborn’, your child may be strong-willed. If you are still unsure, see if your teen has six or more of these traits

1. Argue Endlessly

2. Bossy and Controlling

3. Energetic

4. Is Prone To Power Struggles

5. Refusing to Comply

6. Impatient

7. Will Resist Demands

8. Selective Hearing

9. Want to Learn Things By Themselves At Their Own Pace

10. Think Out of the Box

11. Moving at Their Own Pace

12. Is A Natural-Born Leader Or Trailblazer

My Spirited Daughters

A child who is strong-willed is usually identified early in life.  My middle child is a very strong-willed child and the classic traits were exhibited when she was not even a year old.  The moment she made her grand entrance into the world at the OT by C-section, she was already barking orders. Her first cries were ear-piercing and the loudest among my three babies.  When she was younger, I had a very hard time taming her.  She has all the traits of a strong-willed child and I used to bemoan to my mother how helpless and overwhelmed I felt parenting her.

My strong-willed middle child is not inclined to easily give up and take “no” for an answer. Once I forbade her from taking part in an international dance competition as I felt she was spending too much time on dancing and neglecting her studies. But my headstrong daughter who was then only thirteen went ahead with the audition and planned everything without my knowledge.

Despite our frequent conflicts, my middle child is an overall amazing, multi-talented, independent, and kind-hearted girl who is intrepidly daring.

My youngest daughter seems to be cut from the same cloth too and has fierce determination, knows her mind, and is not easily swayed. She has iron-clad focus when her heart is set on something. I remember she once stayed up until 2 a.m. to complete a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle that she had received from her granny for Christmas.

Tips To Deal With Strong-Willed Teenagers

If you’ve tried lecturing, threats, and removing privileges again and again, you know how futile and frustrating it can be. Instead, you may find yourself in a standoff where he or she will not comply. This will put a strain on your relationship with your teen, which is something that should be avoided.

Strong-willed children do not respond well to being forced to do anything. When we try and force a strong-willed child, we are essentially asking her to push aside who she is and accept our instructions at face value. This will increase negative behaviours and oppositionality.

Like other parenting quandaries, there’s no one right way to defuse a ticking teen bomb. If one method does not work, try to find another style. You have to keep trying out new tactics to deal with a strong-willed child.  

Here are nine essential ideas to help you positively parent your strong-willed teen.

1. Pick Your Battles.

Figure out which battles are worth picking. If you can deal with it – for instance, messy bedrooms and dirty bathrooms, consider letting it slide.

2. Build a support network.

It takes a village to raise a child, so build that village of parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends with whom you spend time who you like as support cast and good influences on your children.

3. The Sandwich Method.

Praise them for doing something right and encourage that they do more of that. If you need to discipline and reprimand, use the sandwich method of feedback. Tell them something positive, followed by the criticism, followed by more praise. The sandwich method is a form of feedback that wraps negative feedback in praise.

4. Be Calm And Wait Out The Storm

If tempers are flared, don’t get sucked into a heated argument.  Give yourself and your teen a cool-down period and then give discussion another shot when all parties have calmed down. Remember not to take it personally if your teen is striking back with hurtful words that can drive you batty.

5. Connection.

As with all children, the more connected our child feels to us, the more likely they are to want to cooperate. Practice open communication at home and listen well to your teens. Open, ongoing communication between parents and teens has numerous positive benefits, including reduced adolescent substance abuse, decreased teen sexual propensity, decreased teen risk-taking behaviours, and improved teen mental health.  Connection will always be the most effective way to influence your strong-willed child.

6. Allow healthy risks.

Risk-taking isn’t always a bad thing for teenagers.  A certain level of safe, positive risk-taking is essential for teens to develop their sense of self and gain self-esteem. Healthy risk-taking activities include performing, traveling, outdoor adventures, physical challenges, and entering new social situations.

7. Practice unconditional love.

Parents should never withdraw or withhold their love based on bad behaviour from their strong-willed teens. Teens need to know that their parents will be there for them no matter what.

8. Keep the consequences logical.

If a boundary is crossed, stick to natural consequences.  Say your teen gets poor grades in an exam because she was spending too much time on her phone instead of studying the night before, look to restricting her phone use as a consequence.

9. Spend time with your teen.

This is a timeless tool that parents need to use.  It’s not true that teens don’t want to spend time with their parents – the activities just need to be updated.  Even just half an hour a week, every week, spent together on activities that your teen loves like hiking, baking, cooking, mall shopping, or even having ice cream together can lead to a better connection between a parent and teen.  

Advantages of Having A Strong-Willed Child

Parenting a strong-willed child is full of ups and downs. A strong-willed child, who is often rebellious, can bring you to the point of tears and exhaustion, frequently get you enraged in a matter of seconds, and cause you incessant worries about their future. By nurturing your child’s individualistic personality in the right way, you can help turn him or her into a self-confident and successful adult you will be proud of. You will be comforted to know that your child will carve his or her own path and will not let any stumbling block stand in their way.

While it’s an uphill battle to parent a strong-willed teen, his or her attitude might be an asset at some points in life. A 40-year research study found that kids who break the rules become some of the highest income earners as adults. Strong-willed kids can be great leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up to the things they believe in.

When you have a strong-willed teen, it is important to maintain a sense of confidence, stay calm, and have a carefully conceived plan of action in mind. You need to take care of your own emotional health, eat right and get enough sleep to get every ounce of strength, dynamism, and self-control you can muster to handle such challenges that God has entrusted you with.

All the best in doing the toughest job on the entire planet – being a loving and supportive parent.


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Health Freak Mommy
Author: Health Freak Mommy

A health freak mom to 3 teenage girls. Blogger since April 2007.