Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Parenting Strong Willed Children

These are notes from a class I took at Education Week last year. The presenter was Kevin Hinckley.

Most of us have or have had at least one strong willed child. I think these ideas are good for lots of situations even if you don't necessarily consider your child a strong willed child.

Parenting Strong Willed Children

Remember: We’re trying to train a spirited horse without breaking them

Top down discipline = more bruises
Laze faire/no rules = Kids dominating isn’t good either

Characteristics of strong willed children: How to identify strong willed children
      "Difficult"or "Stubborn"
       Often different from your other kids
       Spirited and courageous
       Want to learn things for themselves rather than accept what other people say
       Test the limits over and over
       You are not the boss of me – desperately want to be in charge of themselves
       Must be right
       Focus and obsess on ideas or things
       Have big passionate feelings
       Prone to power struggles with parents

They can accomplish great things. But,if they buy into the notion that they are the problem or a troublemaker that is a big problem!

Recognize your “awfulizer”. It’s like a magnifier, We are able to think about a million things at the same time, gather all information and project a path. The “awfulizer” kicks in and we jump to all kinds of awful conclusions. We start to imagine all the awful things that are going to happen to our children if we don’t correct them. So we set up more strict rules – we start to over control and that leads to even more power struggles.

Top Ten Survival Guidelines for parenting strong willed kids:

1. Create Structure with their collaboration; with routine and rules.
         These routines and rules need to be able to be revisited
         They must be consistently applied
         The child needs to know the why of the rule
         The rule needs to be about taking care of a problem – it's not about inflicting pain or punishment

2. These children are experiential learners
         They learn by doing – even failing
         Walk through it afterward with them and ask “Is that what you wanted to have happen?” “What can you do differently next time?”
          They will learn from experience but they may have to learn it over and over. They will learn it when it’s worth their effort.
         Remember – do less than 80% of the talking; ask open ended questions, questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.

3. What they want most is mastery over things
         They need wins; they need people and places where people say “That was awesome!”

4. Provide Choices and Options
         Avoid choicing traps – proper choicing is not a game. Choicing Traps: Empty choices, Over using choices, Options you don't want them to choose, My way or the highway choices, One that is really a punishment, Not age appropriate, Options that are meaningless      
         Not being open to their suggestions leads to lots of resentment.
         Allow them to modify their choices
         Move the parent from being the problem to being the cheerleader, the collaborator; Work together to work out a plan.
         Instead of being the “NO” person – learn how to be part of the solution

5. Don’t Push Them into Corners where they have to oppose you.
       HOW you parent is just as important as WHAT you parent
       Ask yourself “Is this a hill worth dying on?”
       Speak in still, soft tones
       Don’t confront when still angry – many decisions don’t have to be made immediately
       Ask yourself important questions like:
           What triggers YOU and makes YOU mad?
            What do YOU do when YOU get mad? Yell, anger, withdraw, sarcasm?
            What coping skills are YOU modeling?

6. Let Them Save Face
       Don't make everything a win/lose

7. Listen to them and Repeat Back what you are hearing – Listening Trumps Solving!
       If YOU solve it – they don’t own it

8. Really Try to See Issues from their point of view

9. It’s About Discipline (teaching) NOT Punishment
      Relationship not force
      Escalating to more severe punishment doesn’t work
      It is not the severity of the consequence that matters. It’s about making amends. It’s about teaching them to take responsibility. It’s not about teaching them to be afraid or resentful.

10. Offer Large Doses of Respect and Empathy
        Calm, Communicate, Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

      They often run into bumps with other people. Be the bumpers on the bowling alley.   


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