Parenting And Teaching Strong- Willed And Independent Kids

Strong-willed children. Independent children. You know them, raise them, teach them, and love them. But man, it can be so hard. So hard. I know this because I have a strong-willed child myself. I’ve been brainstorming my favorite tried and true ways to help foster this independence in children, whether they are the strong-willed type or not. It will mostly be in a bullet point list so that this doesn’t turn into a lengthy post.  

  1. Don’t be a helicopter mom.
    • Read more about my experience being a helicopter mom with both of my kids.
  2. Give kid access where possible. Can you imagine living in a house where everything is out of reach and inaccessible? Because that’s how your kids can feel. It is freeing for them to have everyday things on their level to have access to. 
    • Access to their dishes 
    • Access to electronics, with boundaries. 
    • Helping make meals and snacks
    • Access to snacks/ food- again with boundaries. 
    • Books and toys at their level. 
  3. Think “what can I not do” 
    • Can your child wipe down their high chair after a meal? 
    • Sweep the floor with a dustpan and small brush? 
    • Put items away? 
    • Tip: Give them specific tasks, not big tasks. 
      • Example: “Can you put this pair of shoes in your closet?” instead of “Please clean up the front room.” Younger kids can get so overwhelmed by these bigger tasks! Break them down. It takes a lot more conversation and working with them, but doing this can eventually lead to, “Can you please clean up the front room?” 
  4. Basic daily tasks they can do by themselves. 
    • Getting dressed (clothes at their level)
    • Brushing teeth 
    • Using the bathroom
    • Opening snacks and drinks 
    • Preparing meals 
    • Getting buckled in the car (with supervision) 
    • Helping grab items off the shelves in grocery stores. 
    • Opening doors for self and others. 
  5. Remember that struggles are okay. It’s okay if your child doesn’t get it right the first time or becomes frustrated when they can’t do a task. In the words of Daniel Tiger, “Keep trying, you’ll get better!” Always keep in mind that they are only (this many) years old. For example, when my daughter can’t get her shoes on by herself, I remind myself, “It’s okay, she’s only 3 years old.” to keep it in perspective that I shouldn’t be expecting her to act older than she is. 
  6. Remember that messes are okay. Learning and growing are messy and hard! Everything can and will be cleaned up. And I firmly believe that kids learn the responsibility of being clean when they are given the chance to get messy and clean up. It’s important that they are expected to clean up too! Even if it’s just a small portion of the mess. 
  7. Remember that getting hurt is okay if it’s not serious. A short tumble off the bottom step of a ladder, a little slip in the grass, and other small ways kids get hurt are how they learn to move their bodies without getting hurt someday. 
  8. Remember that you are the parent/ teacher and you have the right to any boundaries you want to set. Constantly be evaluating your boundaries to see if you need to give more or less freedom. Do what is comfortable for you! 
    • Ex: It’s okay for you to have this cupboard of dishes. But it’s not okay for you to pull out all of these dishes and spread them all over the kitchen. 
    • Ex: It’s okay for you to play on your tablet or watch TV, but I will set a timer for one hour and that’s all the screen time you can get for the day. 
    • Ex: It’s okay for you to play in the backyard by yourself, but I will close the gates so it is locked in and leave the window open so I can hear you if you need me. 
    • Ex: You can buckle yourself into the car by yourself, but I will check it when you’re done to make sure you are safe. 
    • Ex: You can ride your bike on the sidewalk by yourself, but you cannot go past that tree down the road, it is too far. 
  1. The power of choice is your BEST FRIEND when it comes to an independent-minded child. You choose what they can have, but the ultimate choice is in their hands. 
    • Ex: Do you want a PB&J for lunch or a ham sandwich? 
    • Ex: Do you want to go down the slide first, or swing first? 
    • Ex: You can wear a yellow shirt or a green shirt today, which shirt do you want? 
    • Ex: We need to go to Walmart and Costco today, which one should we go to first? 
    • Ex: Do you want to walk to the car, or do you want me to carry you? 
  2. Mantras you can teach your child. Read more about our experience using them.
    • “I can do it if I try!”
    • “I can do it if I practice!”
  3. Mantra for yourself. 
    • “Go for good enough” – How your child performs doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough. 
  4. Conversations/ questions to have with your strong-willed child about to attempt something or just have attempted something. These conversations can lead to good, independent decision making. 
    • “Why do you think that happened?”
    • “Show me how you like to do it!”
    • “What would happen if you did it this way?”
    • “What are all of our options?”  

What else would you add to this list? Bookmark it to save for later! This much information can be overwhelming to remember all at once, so keep this post tucked away and pull it out when you find yourself frustrated with your strong-willed child. 

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