.. continued from Part 1
7. Side-step power struggles by letting your child save face. You don’t have to prove you’re right. You can, and should, set reasonable expectations and enforce them. But under no circumstances should you try to break your child’s will or force him to acquiesce to your views. He has to do what you want, but he’s allowed to have his own opinions and feelings about it.
8. Listen to her. You, as the adult, might reasonably presume you know best. But your strong-willed child has a strong will partly as a result of her integrity. She has a viewpoint that is making her hold fast to her position, and she is trying to protect something that seems important to her. Only by listening calmly to her and reflecting her words will you come to understand what’s making her oppose you. A non-judgmental “I hear that you don’t want to take a bath. Can you tell me more about why?” might just elicit the information that she’s afraid she’ll go down the drain, like Alice in the song. It may not seem like a good reason to you, but she has a reason. And you won’t find it out if you get into a clash and order her into the tub. So next time your child balks, say “I hear that you want…..Tell me more…”
9. See it from his point of view. For instance, he may be angry because you promised to wash his superman cape and then forgot. To you, he is being stubborn. To him, he is justifiably upset, and you are being hypocritical, because he is not allowed to break his promises to you, but you broke yours to him. How do you clear this up and move on? You apologize profusely for breaking your promise, you reassure him that you try very hard to keep your promises, and you go, together, to wash the cape. You might even teach him how to wash his own clothes! Just consider how would you want to be treated, and treat him accordingly.
10. Discipline through the relationship, never through punishment. Kids don’t learn when they’re in the middle of a fight. Like all of us, that’s when adrenaline is pumping and learning shuts off. Kids behave because they want to please us. The more you fight with and punish your child, the more you undermine her desire to please you. If your kid is upset, help her express her hurt, fear or disappointment, so they evaporate. Then she’ll be ready to listen to you when you remind her that in your house, everyone speaks kindly to each other. (Of course, you have to model that. Your child won’t always do what you say, but she will always, eventually, do what you do.)
11. Offer him respect and empathy. Most strong-willed children are fighting for respect. If you offer it to them, they don’t need to fight to protect their position. And, like the rest of us, it helps a lot if they feel understood. If you see his point of view and think he’s wrong — for instance, he wants to wear the superman cape to church and you think that’s inappropriate — you can still offer him empathy and meet him part way while you set the limit. “You love this cape and wish you could wear it, don’t you? But when we go to services we dress up, so we can’t wear the cape. I know you’ll miss wearing it. How about we take it with us so you can wear it on our way home?”
12. Focus on the positive. Instead of getting stuck in your fear about what you don’t want, which just pushes your child into opposing you, focus instead on what you DO want. So instead of saying “NO” or “Don’t” try to rephrase it as “You may do this now” or “Let’s do this” or “I need you to do X so we can then do Y.”