HomeParentingHow to Deal With Stubborn Children Without Losing Your Mind

How to Deal With Stubborn Children Without Losing Your Mind

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Stubborn children will test us as parents, push boundaries, and ultimately, they may make us want to pull our hair out.  However, there is good news for parents of stubborn children. A 2015 study completed by the American Psychological Association found that stubborn children tend to become highly successful adults. Although that is great news for the future,  right now, we still feel frustrated when our kids won’t eat their broccoli, brush their teeth, or clean their rooms.

If your child was born stubborn like mine, there are many years between now and adulthood, and it’s hard to navigate life with a stubborn child.  

Here are a few tips for dealing with stubborn children;

1. Set boundaries and be clear on what is acceptable behavior and what is not:

Make sure to write it down and post it someplace that the whole family can see. If you have younger children, make it visual – sit down, draw a picture, and talk about what they can and cannot do. You also want to be clear on the consequences if your children don’t adhere to the rules. 

2. The two-choice technique:

When it comes to stubborn children, they want to be in charge of what they do and when they do it. By putting the ball in their court, you allow them to decide while you are still in control of the situation.  When using the two-choice technique, you will  simply give them two choices that  you as the parent have predetermined; for example:

  • “Do you want broccoli, or do you want spinach?”
  • “Do you want to clean your room, or do you want to lose the Xbox for two days?”
  • “Do you want to do the dishes or take out the trash?”

This technique helps to reduce anxiety and stress around decisions and puts the ball in their court. When our children are in the driver’s seat, they are more likely to be agreeable.  

3. Listen and Cultivate:

Keep the lines of communication open and ask them what they want and how they feel. Do not just assume that they are being stubborn for stubborn sake. There may be something at the root of the behavior, and you will not be able to understand their needs without listening to what your child has to say.

As our children grow and become more independent, they will begin to find things they enjoy and feel passionate about doing. As parents, it is essential to help our stubborn children connect with something they love. Stubborn children, as we know, tend to lock on to something and not let go. If we can support our children in the things they are passionate about, we can help propel them toward success.   

4. Use positive language:

Stubborn children seem to feel like they never do anything right, and they never get what they want. Stop pointing out the stubborn behavior, which only reinforces the negative acts. Focus on the actions that are working, and praise them for making a positive choice. This may also be an opportunity to create a reward system with your child, so create an ultimate goal and help them work their way towards it.

5. Be an example:

Our children often model our behavior, and perhaps there is someone else in the home that also exhibits stubborn behavior. As parents, we may not see our faults being mirrored in our children. It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself and the other adults in the home about how you can be a better role model for your children. How do you manage decisions and stress as a parent or in life? It is essential as parents to practice what we preach.

If you are also a stubborn parent, it may be hard not to get caught up in a stand-off. Going head to head with a stubborn child usually ends in a last man standing scenario. When it comes to a battle of wills between parent and child, do not give them the upper hand. Stubborn children require a lot of patience and understanding. It will be critical for you to go back to the beginning and be clear about boundaries, give them two choices of your choosing, listen to their needs, and then offer consequences. Do not get caught up in the heat of the moment.  Be calm despite your frustration. 

6. Be consistent:

Our children learn through habits and consistency, and it can be challenging to break a bad habit overnight. When working with your children to re-pattern stubborn behavior, it requires us as parents to provide the structure our children need to create new and healthier habits.

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Dr. Piper Gibson
Dr. Piper Gibson is a Board Certified Doctor of Natural Medicine and is also a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner®, where she specializes in children's neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, Tics/Tourette's, Anxiety, SPD, and ASD. She uses a natural, integrative approach to help her clients finally focus, function, and flourish.

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