In this Article
Stubbornness can be a characteristic that your child demonstrates right from infancy. You can take comfort in the fact that there plenty of parents who are in a similar situation. The way in which you handle your stubborn child will make all the difference in the kind of adults they turn out to be. The toddler phase and the teenager phase are considered the toughest to handle.
It is important to understand that stubbornness is a part of the personality of some children while in others, it is their way of nudging the boundaries and asserting their will. So, it falls to your lot to teach your child the various ways in which they can handle stress and express their feelings.
Characteristics of Stubborn Kids
Just because your child is particular about exercising their will does not make them stubborn. There is a fine line between being determined and being stubborn. Here are some stubborn behaviours characteristics to look out for:
- Highly intelligent and creative
- Tend to question everything which can be mistaken for rebellion
- They want to be heard and expect to be acknowledged which makes them want your attention frequently
- Extremely independent
- Committed to any task, they take up and will not rest till it reaches a conclusion
- Might have frequent temper tantrums
- Display leadership traits and can even appear bossy
- Will do everything at their own pace
- Do not hesitate to pursue something they have set their heart on irrespective of how dangerous it is or even if it involves breaking the rules
Psychology of Stubborn Children
To deal with your stubborn child, the right way, it is important first to understand why they are this way and what makes them this way. It is one thing for your child to be determined and another to be stubborn. Determination is defined as “firmness of purpose” while being stubborn is “the refusal to change thought, behaviour, or action under any external pressure”. Stubbornness can be genetic and also acquired behaviour that is learned by observing others. But this behaviour can be channelled to prove productive and mild your child into a well-rounded individual.
How to Handle Stubborn Kids?
Infants, toddlers, teens – stubbornness can surface at any age and then continue into adulthood. As a parent, it is important that you find ways of handling your stubborn child in such a way that you can limit their behaviour without stressing out either of you. Here are some techniques for handling a stubborn child:
- Use Distractions
There are likely to be some issues on which you and your child agree to disagree – car seats, for example. If going for a drive becomes a struggle of wills every time, then try to distract your child with where you are going instead of how or something similar, before you get to the car. And if it’s chores that is a sore point, try to make a game of it, maybe by setting a time limit and roping in siblings too.
- Don’t Argue
Stubborn children are always ready to face an argument head-on. So, don’t give them that opportunity. Instead, lend a listening ear to whatever your child has to say and turn it into a conversation instead of an argument. When you show that you are ready to listen to their side of the story, it makes them more likely to listen to what you have to say as well.
- Establish A Connection
Do not force your child to do something that they do not want to. This will only make them more rebellious and bent on doing exactly what they are not supposed to do. So, if you want your child to stop watching television, and do homework instead, try watching television with him or her for a while. This will bring in some camaraderie, and after a short while, you can ask your child if they’d like to do homework as you read your book or do some work sitting close by.
- Offer Some Choices
Telling a stubborn child what to do is a sure-fire way of igniting their rebellious streak. Instead, offer them options to choose from as this makes them feel as if they have control over their lives and can independently decide what they would like to do. Keep the choices limited to avoid confusing your child and offer only two or three options. For instance, if he or she is to clean up their room, ask them if they would like to start with the bed or the closet first instead of saying, “where do you want to start?”
- Step Into Your Child’s Shoes
Look at the issue at hand from your child’s point of view and try to understand why he or she is behaving in this manner. If you promised to take them to the park but have refused as the weather has turned bad, then you will need to explain to them why it is not possible to keep your promise. Your child will only see it as a broken promise, but by outlining why you cannot go out and by setting a later date for the outing, you can salvage the situation.
- Maintain Peace At Home
Make sure that your home is a place where your child feels happy, comfortable, and secure at all times. Be polite to everyone at home, especially your spouse, as children learn from observation. They are likely to imitate what they see, so it is essential that you keep the peace and avoid arguments as well as trading insults in front of the child.
- Brush Up On Your Negotiating Skills
Stubborn children find it difficult to absorb an outright refusal when they ask for something. So, instead try to negotiate with them instead of laying down the law. For instance, if your child insists on listening to two bedtime stories, talk them out of it by reaching an agreement where they can pick a story for tonight and another one for tomorrow.
- Encourage Positive Behaviour
Lead by example and present a positive attitude at all times. If you use the words ‘no’, ‘cannot’, or ‘will not’ a lot, then your child is also likely to do the same. Look at your child’s stubbornness with appositive outlook rather than being negative about it and speaking without thinking. Try to make a game out of it by asking your child questions that elicit a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. Frame your questions such that the answer is ‘yes’ most of the time. This sends the message that your child is being heard and appreciated.
- Develop Routines
Sticking to daily routines as well as weekly ones can help improve your child’s behaviour as well as performance in school. Bedtime needs to be defined and should be such that it provides for plenty of rest for your child. Lack of sleep and being tired can lead to behavioural problems in children between the ages of three and twelve.
- Lay Down Rules And Consequences
Stubborn children need rules and regulations to thrive. So, set the boundaries and make your expectations clear at a family meeting. Ask your child for inputs on what the consequences are to be as well as their views on each of these. Consistency is important, but that does not translate into rigidity. It is important to be flexible at times, like when you are on holiday or on occasions when your child displays exemplary behaviour. This conveys to them that following rules can be rewarding too and is not intended to be stifling.
Problems With a Stubborn Child
Parenting a stubborn child is not an easy task every little thing can turn into a struggle each day if you do not find a solution fast. You may have come across plenty of information on how to control stubborn child behaviour, but every day is a new challenge. Disciplining a stubborn child might not be the best solution in all instances and finding a workaround might be more effective.
- Fussy Eaters
Most children can be fussy when it comes to food and meals and more so if the child has a stubborn streak. Being sneaky can be helpful here and try serving small portions of different food to your child and let them choose what they want to eat more of. You can also try to make food interesting by coming up with creative recipes with nutritious ingredients. Also, try to involve your kid in mealtime chores such as setting the table. Rewarding them such as a favourite dessert for finishing meals can also smooth things faster.
- Homework Blues
See if your child has difficulty completing the assigned homework or is overwhelmed by the amount to be written or learned. If that seems to be the case, you could break it down into shorter pieces to be completed in phases. Taking short breaks in between might get it done quicker than in one sitting. Another option is to combine it with another activity. For instance, learning spellings can be done while you are watering the garden with your child helping you out.
- Wardrobe Battles
A popular cause of discord, this occurs every time your child wants to wear something that is not appropriate for the occasion or weather outside. One way of reducing the friction is to sort out your child’s clothes and alternate them every couple of weeks. Also, put away the outfits that are season inappropriate, so there is one less reason for conflict. Anytime you want your child to change clothes, lay out two or three different outfits and ask them to choose. This way, they are happy about making the decision, and you are not pulling out your hair!
- Bedtime Struggles
As bedtime approaches, your child starts running around and attempts to pump up the adrenaline, so they don’t fall asleep easily. So, around 30 minutes before it is lights out turn on some soothing music and dim the lights. Switch off the television and get your child to change into their pyjamas. Avoid a fight here by giving your child the option of choosing the nightdress and wearing it or taking your help. Just before setting them towards the bedroom, take a few minutes to connect with your child by asking them if they had anything to share about their day or just a simple question of whether it was a good day or a bad one.
Having a stubborn child is not a bad thing. In fact, it has been seen that children who have these characteristics often turn out to be achievers in academics as well as in their work life. They are less susceptible to give in to peer pressure which helps them steer clear of wrong things that their friends might be into. Practicing effective discipline and making an effort to understand your child can go a long way in helping them turn into responsible adults albeit strong-willed.
This information is just a guide and not a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.