Every child is a strong willed child at some point or another.
Some mamas have kids who exert their will every hour of the day.
Some mamas have kids who store it up for just the opportune time.
The phrases you’ll find in this post are vital for every child in the throws of hard headedness to hear from the people they love most, because it’s in those moments when your child is at his worst that he needs his mama and daddy the most.
A little soul searching…
I’ve struggled to write this post.
Not because I didn’t know the phrases that need to be said, but because I don’t necessarily have a strong willed child who acts out the majority of the day.
Sure, my oldest is stubborn. Sassy. Smarter than she should be. She has her moments where she is strong willed. But for the most part she’s just the coolest.
We’ve learned to temper her strong will with communication that has made our lives easier and better.
Compassionate parenting builds trust and bonding between parent and child. It allows the child to feel that they have a safe space within their home to openly express their emotions, even when those emotions are crazy big and scary.
When a child has the security necessary to exhibit those emotions, it’s up to us to help them learn how to navigate those emotions and work through them.
We need to help them identify what they’re feeling and healthy ways to overcome it.
These phrases help children feel heard and seen by their “grown ups.”
Children often think that they are invisible to the big people in their lives until they pull attention to themselves in some form.
What if we step up and let them know that they are seen, heard, and appreciated even when they haven’t done something to purposely set the spotlight on themselves?
Why can’t I just punish them and be done?
Because children aren’t able to learn how to work through or deal with their emotions that way.
After calming down, your child needs you to explain what happened.
They may not completely understand everything, but taking the time to communicate with them about the situation helps to build trust between you and your child.
When Should I Use These Phrases?
Honestly, many of these phrases can, and should, be used often, regardless of the presence of your child’s strong will or not.
As I said earlier, the point of these phrases is NOT to “fix” your child. It’s to build a relationship that encourages trust and security so that your child can grow emotionally.
Phrases for Your Strong Willed Child
Being able to admit when you’re wrong is a vital step in building trust between you and your child.
If you act as though you never mess up, your child may find himself confused as to why it’s okay for mama to throw a tantrum but he can’t.
Be strong enough to apologize to your child when you’ve messed up.
Explain to them how you were feeling and the behavior that you’re apologizing for.
Let them help you figure out a healthier way for you to handle things next time.
You not only build trust, you get them thinking about handling emotions in a healthier way. Win win.
You want… // You don’t want…
This one has been a TOTAL game changer in our home.
Once my oldest was old enough to throw a fit over her lack of ability to communicate (or, let’s face it, mama’s lack of ability to read her mind), we had to figure out a way to get through those tantrums quicker and with fewer tears.
The magic answer:
Saying, “You want…” or “You don’t want…”
For example, “Oh! You want your water! Here let me help you grab it from the counter.”
Using this simple set of phrases helps your child to feel heard and understood, even when they don’t get their way.
There have been many tantrums that were calmed by simply acknowledging the “want” of my daughter without giving in to the request.
“You want your daddy to come home from work. I know it. I hear you. You want daddy to come home from work. I do, too. Daddy has to work to take care of us so he can’t come home right now. You want daddy to come home from work.”
By simply acknowledging the “need” or “want,” you can diffuse an emotionally charged situation fairly quickly.
If your child has that streak of stubbornness, you know that they need to feel like they’re in control of their situation. They like to make their own decisions.
The magic part of this phrase is that when it’s used correctly there are two amazing things that happen:
Your child feels in control
Your child does what you wanted them to do anyway
Here’s how this one works.
When you need your child to do something, such as put on her shoes, you give her TWO options: “Would you like to wear your tennis shoes or your sandals?”
If she responds with anything other than tennis shoes or sandals, you respond with, “That is not an option. Would you like to wear your tennis shoes or sandals?”
When they make the decision what shoes to wear they feel as if they are the boss of their lives, even though they just carried out the action that you needed them to do.
When you’re finished…
Strong willed children are notorious for being focused on the task at hand, be it building a castle with blocks, finishing a show on TV, or washing their own hands.
As you’re waiting for your child to finish their task, use this phrase, and then actually allow them to finish.
This shows them that you are respectful of what they’re trying to do while setting up an expectation of what will happen as soon as they are finished.
For example, “When you’re finished reading your book, it’s time to turn off the light and go to bed.”
This is what’s going to happen
This one might just be one of my top faves.
When going somewhere with your child, give them a set of expectations beforehand so they know what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
For example: (Right before I unbuckle my daughter from her carseat) “This is what’s going to happen: We are in a parking lot, so you are going to stay close to Mommy. You will not run in the parking lot. You will hold my hand until we get inside. While I am shopping, you will stay close to me and listen to what I tell you. Do you understand?”
This gives your child a heads up ahead of time about what they’re about to do and how they’re allowed to behave.
Do you understand why?
Don’t be a flake on this one, mama.
When you ask if your child understands why they were just disciplined, chances are your kid will say yes every time.
Don’t take the easy road, say, “Okay,” and go on about your day.
Take the extra minute to follow through and explain the reason behind whatever you’re telling them every time.
Even if they’ve already gotten in trouble for that exact action several times already.
Explain it every single time.
This is a good phrase to use in the middle of those BIG emotions.
This phrase is golden for so many reasons, but my personal favorite reasons are because:
It helps your child feel validated
It helps your child identify their emotions
You open up an opportunity to communicate about healthy alternatives to expressing that emotion
Sometimes children need the acknowledgment of their feelings more than a “fix” for the situation.
“I can see you’re feeling frustrated because I won’t let you have candy for lunch.”
Validate your child’s emotions, identify them, and then open the opportunity to teach them how to express those emotions in a healthier way.
This is an easy way to encourage a behavior that you want to see more often, such as playing independently, sharing, or express affection for a sibling.
This simple phrase helps your child to feel seen and let’s them know what behaviors are pleasing to you.
A simple “I love watching you share your blocks with your little sister!” tells your child that she is not invisible and that she does things that make you happy.
This simple phrase helps your child feel seen, and that is so important in building a relationship with your child.
That’s not how we…
This one starts with building a family culture. You need to know ahead of time behaviors that your family won’t participate in, such as cell phones at the table or cussing.
When it’s a matter of family culture, your child can’t respond with, “But you get to do it!”
Not only are you modeling behavior you want your child to emulate, you build a sense of unity within your family unit.
It’s okay to be mad, but ______ is not okay.
This is another great phrase to help your child identify their emotions and learn what behaviors are not acceptable.
For example, “It’s okay to feel frustrated, but yelling at mama is not okay.”
Try following this one up with a suggestion on how they can handle their big feelings in a healthier way.
What do you think about that?
I love this one for the simple fact that it teaches your child that their opinion is valuable to you.
It doesn’t take but a few seconds to turn to your child and ask for their opinion on the meal their eating, a show their watching, or something they see on a walk.
Those few seconds of acknowledgement from you helps your child develop a sense of thinking about things for themselves, forming their own opinions, and feeling like they are a valued part of the family.