As soon as he or she can reason, a strong-willed child wants to know the consequences that will result from any misbehavior. Our strong-willed child got as close to “the line” as he could to weigh the joy of control against the pain of the consequences before choosing whether or not to cross the line. That is knowledge every strong-willed child desires.
When you are determining the consequences, never make a threat you cannot keep. The mother who shrieks, “If you do that, you’ll be grounded for life” is simply showing her lack of control.
The strong-willed child knows immediately upon hearing the idle threat that he has the upper hand. No mother is capable of enforcing the threat to ground her child for life (and maybe not even for a month), and indeed, the parent also would be grounded.
Believe it or not, we have heard fathers threaten, “I’ll break your arm if you do that.” Or, “I’ll knock you to the other side of tomorrow if you don’t stop.”
These unattractive, highly offensive statements are not credible and result in the strong-willed child winning the battle. Those unreasonable threats made by a loving (though unthinking) parent will never be carried out.
A listener said:
“We were at my sister’s house having dinner, and she was trying to get her little boy to stay in his seat. He wanted to get down and play with my two-year-old. He did not want to finish his dinner. Finally, she let him know that he was not trapped at the table forever. She simply stated, ‘You can get down and play once all of that food is off your plate.’ At that point, she continued eating until Brian announced, ‘Mom, I can get down now.’ All the food was off his plate and placed on the table.”
Being clear about your instructions is as important as being clear about the consequences. In the early stages of the journey it is not too soon to discipline your child. Undoubtedly, the form that discipline takes will vary as the child matures.
What consequences have worked with your strong-willed child?