Strong-Willed Children: What You Need to Know

Do you want to know what the characteristics of strong-willed children are and how you should treat them? Here, we'll tell you..
Strong-Willed Children: What You Need to Know

Last update: 27 January, 2022

Each person is different and the same applies to children. There are strong-willed children and those who are a bit more compliant or easy-going. But having a strong-willed child doesn’t have to overwhelm you when it comes to raising them. On the contrary, we have to see a strong personality as an opportunity to discover the best way to educate them, while respecting their nature. Both the temperaments and the personalities of children are highly variable aspects.

Many parents spend all their time trying to change the personalities of their strong-willed children because they’re simply not how they would have liked them to be. But by doing this, the only thing you achieve is losing the connection with your little ones, damaging their self-esteem, and making them think that something in them isn’t right and that they must change it to be loved.

The most important thing in raising children is being able to adapt to their way of being to instill in them the best teachings. Here, we’ll explain the characteristics of these little ones with strong personalities and how to treat them.

“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them .”

-Bill Ayers-

Strong-willed children: Their main characteristics

The first thing you have to know is the difference between strong-willed children and those who throw a tantrum at a specific moment. Having a tantrum one day isn’t the same as having one every day. Age is another factor. So, do you want to know what the characteristics of strong-willed children are? Keep reading.

1. They always go against the grain

A shy childing on a playground.

Strong-willed children know very well what, how, and when they want something. And no matter how much we tell them or what they see others do, they follow their own rhythm.

They’re children who like to explore and aren’t usually afraid of anything, so they need the constant supervision of their caregivers.

2. They may seem stubborn

It’s not stubbornness, but attention and passion to what they do at a specific moment. We don’t have to make them always accept our beliefs or what others say. The important thing is to let them tell us what they want because they’ll end up surprising us.

3. They have their own criteria

We may try to get them to wear certain clothes or we may choose extracurricular activities for them, but they have their own criteria.

We must let them choose their own things, according to their tastes, taking their opinions into account. They’re children who have to do things their own way and allowing them to do so isn’t being soft on them.

4. They want to do everything on their own

If a child tries to do things on their own and doesn’t want you to do things for them, then you’re probably dealing with a strong-willed child. In this case, it’s best to give them their autonomy and allow them to do things that are appropriate for their age. Always remain by their side to give them a hand when necessary.

You can give them several options to choose from to make it easier to control what they do. This can be tedious, but it’s the best way for the child to trust their parents and feel that they’re the one who makes the decisions.

A small child buttoning his own shirt.

Tips for dealing with strong-willed children

If you have a boy or a girl that’s strong-willed, you shouldn’t see it as something negative or complicated. You simply need to adapt your parenting strategies to their way of being. Here are some tips for dealing with these hot-tempered kids.

1. Explain the reasons

You shouldn’t limit yourself to telling them what they should or shouldn’t do, but explain the reasons why. A child who understands why they should or shouldn’t do a certain thing is likely to change their behavior. Try it!

2. Use play to decrease misbehavior

We all know that play is good in many ways, but it’s also one of the best means to use in raising strong-willed children.

Through games and with a great sense of humor, you can get the little ones to do certain things or decrease their misbehavior a bit in different situations.

3. Don’t yell at them or compare them with anyone else

You should always avoid yelling at the little ones and don’t compare them with other kids (siblings, cousins, friends, or neighbors). When you do this, the only thing you do is make them feel offended and increase their anger or frustration.

The best and healthiest thing is to establish clear limits and not take their strong will as a bad thing, because it’s not.

4. Teach them to cooperate

Another way to deal with strong-willed children is to teach them to cooperate and involve them in what you do. This way, they’ll feel that you take them into account and they’ll learn the value of helping and working with others.

This is a way of involving all of you and instead of telling them to do things alone, join them. For example, “let’s brush our teeth” and you’ll all brush your teeth, or “let’s go pick up” and you’ll pick up together. This way, they’ll stop seeing the proposal as an order and will accept it better.

5. Empathize with them

Empathy is a skill that we should all implement when dealing with anyone. It’s a quality that enables us to put ourselves in the place of the other and better understand the situations they go through or how they experience them.

It’s essential that you not downplay your children’s feelings or thoughts. Listen to them and encourage them to tell you what’s happening to them.

A mother getting down o her toddler son's level to talk to him.

6. Always give them several options

A very strict upbringing with strong-willed children is very prone to failure. What’s more, you may get just the opposite of what you want to achieve. Also, the behavior becomes much more provocative over time.

For this reason, whenever you can, you must give them a choice between several options in order to participate in the decisions. You can negotiate with them in this way and therefore, the result won’t have been your imposition, but your child’s own will.

What you should know about strong-willed children

There are strong-willed children and this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we must see them as people who direct all their attention and energy to what they do.

They’re small human beings with their own criteria, who like to experience their own life, feel independent, and be autonomous. All of this is a set of enormous virtues to cultivate and harness.

Parenting doesn’t have to be difficult just because your child has a strong nature. You just have to try the different ways of approaching them, explain your reasons with love, and have a lot of patience with them. With these keys. it’s very possible to achieve the best results.

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

-Angela Schwindt-

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Train, A. (2001). Agresividad en niños y niñas: ayudas, tratamiento, apoyos en la familia y en la escuela (Vol. 158). Narcea Ediciones.
  • Rodas Castillo, BC. (2016). LA EMPATÍA COGNITIVA Y EL DESARROLLO DE HABILIDADES SOCIALES EN LOS NIÑOS Y NIÑAS DE 5-6 AÑOS DE LA UNIDAD EDUCATIVA ALFONSO TROYA. Tesis de Licenciatura en Ciencias de la Educación Parvularia. Universidad de Ambato. Disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.