8 Tips For Parenting a Strong Willed Child

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As a mom it is tough sometimes to actually come to reality that children come with no handbook, instruction manual, or even a list of pointers. To put it bluntly parenting is the hardest job many of us will incur in our lives, but also the most rewarding.

Being a mom is such a special gift from God. And with these gifts come questions.

How can I be the best parent?

How do I know what I am doing is right?

Are my methods of punishment and reward appropriate?

The truth is complex. Our jobs as moms and dads are difficult especially when dealing with children that are a little tougher than others. The defiant and strong willed child is difficult. We love, nurture, and guide in all the same ways but sometimes the efforts are exhausting.

tips for parenting a strong willed child

(While I have you here, if your kids are struggling with getting along, here are some tips to reduce sibling rivalry.)

Defiant children are typically more emotionally driven and often times the only way their actions are expressed is through anger or aggressive behavior. Explanations to a defiant child leave us lost in though and feeling defeated only to often times still receive a glare or refusal to do what they are asked.

My personal experiences with defiant children have been a very big part of my motherhood. For a while handling the defiance seemed impossible. I found myself struggling with my abilities as a mom and also mixed emotions as to why my child was so unhappy. Tantrums were so frequent is seemed as though planning anything was nothing I would even dream of attempting. Endless visits with several counselors left me feeling like I was only given clinical options rather than a therapeutic home approach. As a parent I felt like I was being tried or tested by God. Why is my child so angry? Why won’t he listen? Why does is feel like a battle with everything?

It took a lot of time along with trial and error. The roots of handling defiant behavior begin at home. Learning how to interpret my child’s behavior, become a better physical listener, and express my unwillingness to feed into bad behavior were key elements of my struggles. With age and time I think we have finally found a happy medium. These days I feel like a pro. I feel like I can conquer anything. My confidence reflects in my parenting which influences confidence in my children.

Trying moments are possible. Taking things one breath at a time and applying simple steps will leave you feeling a bit more accomplished.

8 Tips for Parenting a Strong Willed Child

1. Don’t let good behavior go unnoticed. This is especially important. Defiant children often times struggle horribly with confidence. Encouraging and recognizing things such as sharing or playing well with others really does wonders to let your child know they are wonderful.

2. Stick to what you have said. This means is you have asked your child to put away his or her clothes or take out the trash reminding them every 5 minutes is something that is unnecessary. Often times a defiant child will find an opportunity to argue or complain and search for reason not to do the task. You must be unwilling to participate.

3. Provide understanding for expectations. This means letting your child understand his or her choices. Expressing what you know they are capable of doing and then providing them with choices is great for encouraging better decision making.

4. Give positive reinforcement with enthusiasm. When you express your appreciation to your child make sure you are being enthusiastic and excited. This lets your child know they are appreciated also.

5. Don’t express drastic punishment. Stick to one thing not an add on of other punishments because your child throws a tantrum. The punishment should fit the crime and adding on a bunch of other things because the child continues with a tantrum or argument only fuels the fire.

6. Offer a reward system. When a defiant child can see their accomplishments they are encouraged, pleased, and building confidence.

7. Remove the child from the situation. If a tantrum is occuring at a store be prepared to leave immediately. That’s right leave that basket full of groceries and go home. Your defiant child will thrive off the attention you are giving to quiet them down but also the onlookers. Same thing for at home. A time out corner or a time out in their room is sufficient in letting a child know their actions are not acceptable.

8. Keep calm. Yelling and screaming accomplishes zero with a child who is throwing a tantrum. On top of that it is though you are saying that type of behavior is ok. In these moments it is ok to take a time out. Lower your voice and step away if necessary.

parenting a defiant child

Here are some resources that are also useful.

1. Parenting the Strong Willed Child

2. 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child

3. Building Confidence and Self Esteem

Do you have any helpful pointers for parenting a strong willed or defiant child? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Internet Terms and Acronyms

Text Terms Kids are Using That Parents MUST KNOW

While you’re here, make sure you also check out the discipline method we’ve used in our home for over a decade.

child discipline

Potty Train in a Weekend eBook

5 reasons we encourage our kids to make a mess

5 Benefits of Kids Being Messy (It’s good for them!) 


  1. These are some very valuable tips. I have three strong-willed children. I’ve learned that providing options to what they are going to do helps a lot too. Thank you for sharing your expertise on this topic.

    1. Alex McWhirter says:

      Thank you Crystal Green!

  2. There are some great coping strategies here for parenting a strong willed child – thank you for sharing with us at the Hearth and Soul hop. Sharing!

  3. Indeed, this approach helps more than arguing with the child. I found out that it is not easy to always predict and avoid tantrums at least for my child. Sometimes you need to step back and let her steam off for a while even give her a little time to cope with the situation. At the end of all this you see that the child is exhausted and in a way “asking why this is all happening to me” and defently needs a hug. Perhaps the points I cannot really deal with are denial of something happening to her (I was not the one who fell to the floor, you fell mom) and stalling the errands she has (she takes ages to pick up a book to read while drinking her night milk). What I surely know is that it takes a lot of patience and courage to raise this type of kids because tantrums may fade away at some point of time but character and attitude will always be there.

    1. Not one of these tips works for my daughter. I tried so many parenting strategies and nothing worked. Her defiance (amongst other behaviour issues) disappears like magic on a salicylate and additive free diet though. Obviously this won’t be the answer for everyone but for us it’s changed our lives in the best way. 🙂

      1. You bring up a very, very valid point. Diet can certainly have something to do with behavior. I am so glad you mentioned this. Do you have any resources you could share?

  4. We really struggle with our daughter at times, who has recently been diagnosed with ADHD. The child psychologist has given us tips along similar lines. They certainly help.

  5. Thanks so much for these! I have a few strong willed children and I know I need to be reminded to stick to my guns. It’s so hard when they are so perseverant. I know I need to be even more so! Pinning! Linking up with you at #sharethewealth 🙂

  6. Great tips! It’s interesting how you used the terms “strong-willed” and “defiant” interchangeably. I think one of my kids is particularly strong-willed, yet behaves that way out of, well, strength of will and self-centeredness rather than interest in defying parents. Of course, the result is the same. We’ve definitely used some of these tips, and I LOVE the book Parenting a Strong Willed Child. Thanks for linking up with the #EverythingKids this week!

  7. These are some great tips. Both of my kiddos are pretty strong willed. I need to work on not arguing back and forth with my son in particular. Diet does seem to help a lot. We definitely see the difference when there is junk in the house.

  8. Making sure to give praise for good behavior (and not just punishing bad behavior) is so important, but it’s hard for me to remember when it seems like they’re being naughty every chance they get! Thanks for the reminder.

  9. I found these tips to be very helpful. We have struggled for years with our oldest son who can be defiant and is definitely a strong willed child. At 13, we had hoped to move past his behavior, but we’re still working on it each and every day. We hope to implement these ideas that we aren’t already using with our son. Thank you.

    1. Alex McWhirter says:

      Kristen ,

      I too can relate with the nervousness of entering the teens with a defiant child. My oldest is also 13 and the initial jump into the teenage years was certainly nerve racking. However, I will say that our communication has really improved. Of course we have down days but I reiterate choice and consequence to him which has allowed him to imply his perspective. Best of luck!

  10. Hi,
    I know Crystal. You won the Inspire Me Monday Linky Party with your post. You are being featured on my site tomorrow. Congratulations.

  11. I struggled with one very defiant child and your tips are spot on! I left many a grocery cart behind, by the way!! Thanks for bringing this by to Throwback Thursday! 🙂


  12. Y’all seriously just leave a cart full of groceries behind bc your kid is having a melt down? My family would starve if I did that. He’s flipping out bc he doesn’t want to be there and that seems like giving in to me. Plus, I feel like it shows that being disrespectful of the store employees and the merchandise (bc it’s perishable) is acceptable…and it definitely is not! I am very consistent with my rules, try re-wording things, give him choices etc. I reward for good behavior and set very clear expectations before we go/do something. I have to do immediate punishment bc he seems to “forget” everything if I wait to see how things pan out. It’s so very frustrating. Every single day turns into a huge fight theres only so long that a person can be disrespected and disobeyed before they hit that breaking point and start yelling. He is an angel at school. Very good behavior, top grades. But he gets home and all hell breaks lose. And the back talk….oh my Lord, the back talk. I have no idea what to do but can’t keep going like this…nothing works

  13. I find it so interesting that strong willed children struggle with confidence. That would definitely explain why they crave attention and control. Thank you for these awesome parenting tips!

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