I have wrote previously about parenting my sensitive child respectfully. Today I wanted to write about parenting a headstrong child respectfully.
When you hear about headstrong children – or strong-willed, spirited, even ‘stubborn’ or ‘difficult’ – it’s often negative.
My daughter is at a different space in the social and emotional spectrum. Before she could talk, she had already asserted her feelings and her ownership over herself and her wants. I knew I had to learn a whole new set of mothering tools to help nurture the person she is.
Lucy is only 2.5 years old but she has made her strong personality clear. She is not afraid to tell you what she thinks and needs a damn good reason to not do something that she wants to do. Even after a reasonable explanation, she’ll often keep going; willing to prove her point regardless. She loves fiercely and isn’t one to follow.
Her headstrong personality lends itself to being unapologetically herself. She already is self-motivated and is happy to go after what she wants.
Boy, do I adore this girl! I want to protect all that she is and help nurture those attributes that could otherwise be seen as unfavourable.
Just as some people view Cameron’s shyness and difficulty in social situations as a result of my parenting choices, so too do people see a headstrong toddler as a byproduct of parenting. But just as it’s a character trait of his, her nature is inherently part of her too.
Like being ‘shy’, being headstrong has a social stigma too. I’ve been told by various friends and family that “she’s a handful” and “she’ll be trouble” all the way through to much more offensive descriptions and ‘warnings’.
Parenting a strong-willed child can be hard. If you let it, there can be power struggles. You can’t control your child, but you can choose to control your response. Really, like with any other parenting challenge; respect is mutual when you listen, are empathetic, give choices and set limits.
Ultimately, I accept every one of my children’s personality traits. I see their uniqueness and I focus on the positive. I think we should be celebrating the attributes our kids naturally have!
I think both of my children are brilliant. I love their unique innate selves. I think this is what parenting is about! We needn’t pressure or coax our children to conform to some ‘norm’. Not only is it ineffective but it’s harmful.
I know that personally as a child I was very headstrong but I was also shy. I had both of these characteristics that my children do as well as a myriad of other attributes. I remember being called bossy and manipulative as well as being teased for being quiet and a loner. I can see now that often these characteristics were seen as undesirable for my parents.
It seems like society places some form of Goldilocks pressure on kids. Not too soft, not too hard. Not too quiet, not too loud. Not too obedient, not too disobedient. Not too calm, not too hyper. & so on and so forth.
Yet all of us adults feature on this massive spectrum of personality. Despite years of conforming and judgement for certain traits, we are still a huge variety of personalities and strengths and weaknesses.
Still, many of us wear the emotional scars that prove how both ineffective and harmful this conformity is. Do we not? I bet you can think of examples.
So why not celebrate these differences in our children. Celebrate this rainbow of personalities and help nurture them to be the best person they can be WITH these traits, not in spite of them.