Updated: Aug 1
Parenting defiant or strong-willed children is a challenge. These kids often get a bad rap, labeled as difficult or flat-out defiant. I contend that they are generally misunderstood. Understanding a child’s personality can make a huge difference when parenting. Strong-willed kids are usually choleric, which means they like to be in charge and are born leaders. There are pros and cons of each personality type, presenting parenting challenges for each of them.
The book Wired That Way defines personality types and the pros and cons of each. Choleric personality types are goal-oriented, decisive, confident, and are usually quick to act in an emergency situation. However, they are also often insensitive, impatient, bossy, and can act like they know it all. They have the tendency to use others for their own gains and purposes and lack empathy for others.
Since these kiddos feel like they know it all, parenting can be quite difficult. Engaging in a power struggle with these kids can be exhausting and relentless. Parents who have more passive personality types may give up and allow these kids to have control, which leads to more problems. On the other hand, strong-willed parents may engage in power struggles that can get out of hand. It can be like rams with their horns locked, battling back and forth for hours. No one wants that!
I now have a book and game about personality types that is designed for children. You can find it here:
So, what is the solution to parenting choleric kids? It is avoiding power struggles but also maintaining control over the situation. The best way I have found to do this is by offering choices that are reasonable and giving logical consequences for poor behavior. When choleric people feel like they have some control, they are much more reasonable.
Love and Logic and a parenting program that is hugely beneficial with these kids. The whole basis behind this parenting program is to respond with empathy and to allow kids to make choices, but also to deal with the consequences of their choices. To accomplish this, it may take a lot of work to change the way you think about parenting. Instead of punitive punishments for behavior, the child will have to figure out ways to correct the situation. For instance, instead of getting grounded for talking hatefully to a sibling, the child would have to identify how their behavior damaged the relationship with the sibling and then find ways to try to make it right. This might include writing a thoughtful letter, doing the sibling’s chores, or giving a gift.
I have had many parents over the years use this parenting style with their stubborn kids and have had wonderful success. My family is one of those success stories. One of my favorite moments was when my son worked hard for his money and saved up $60. He wanted to buy fireworks with it. I was hesitant to allow him to spend all of his money but decided it was a good learning opportunity. The morning after he popped all of his fireworks he moped around the house and was clearly upset. I asked him what was wrong. His response was priceless! He said, “All of my money just went up in smoke.” He is now older and much wiser with his money. He has learned to shop for bargains and turn around and sell items for a profit. And, he is much more conservative when shopping for fireworks! LOL.
People have historically discussed having strong-willed children as a curse of sorts. It was like the parent was doomed to a horrible life, like they drew the short end of the stick. As a mother of a child who scored 97% choleric on the personality test, I can vouch for the positive side of this personality style. These kids, if aimed in the right direction, have the potential to change the world. They are go-getters and extremely focused. They know what they want and will figure out how to get it done. Make your life and theirs more pleasant by avoiding the power struggles and embracing their personality type.
Note: Wired That Way also offers a personality profile test. You can find it here.
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