How To Deal With A Stubborn Child

How To Deal With A Stubborn Child

Most parents often struggle with childhood tantrums and attitudes. So, if you are one of them, you need to understand how to deal with a stubborn child.

Stubbornness in children is natural, but this does not make the parent’s difficulties any less. Chores as simple as going to sleep, taking a bath, or eating can take a lot of convincing, ultimately leading to an argument. Dealing with this every day can be taxing. Therefore, it is essential to acquaint the child with the consequences of such behaviour. You also need to appreciate their hard work and good behavior to get them to listen to you.

It is however, important to note that not every child that exercises free will is stubborn. This is why it’s important to fathom if your child is stubborn or determined before taking any strong action.

This is majorly due to the fact that strong-willed children can be highly intelligent and creative. They ask a lot of questions, which may come across as rebellion. They have opinions and are “Doers”. On the other hand, stubborn children stick to their opinion and would not be ready to listen to what you have to say.

Understanding Stubborn Children

If determination is one of your strong suits, you’d love to see that in your children as well. But the tricky part is to know the difference between determination and stubbornness. So how do you tell one from the other?

The dictionary meaning of determination is ‘firmness of purpose’.


Stubbornness is defined as having an unwavering determination to do something or act in a particular way. Simply put, it is refusing to change one’s thoughts, behaviours, or actions regardless of the external pressure to do otherwise. Stubbornness in children can be genetic or an acquired behaviour due to environmental influences.


The factors that can contribute to children being stubborn or strong-willed are their developmental stage, temperament, parenting style, stressors, and unmet needs.

Dealing with stubborn children might require extra patience and effort, as you would need to observe and understand your child’s behaviour pattern carefully.

Do you have a stubborn toddler who refuses to stay in his / her crib or brushes aside their cereal spoon every time you try to feed them. Or you may have a bullheaded six-year-old who insists on wearing the same clothes every day and stomps their feet to defy every rule or instruction you give them?


1.Try To Listen:

Communication is a two-way street. If you want your child to listen to you, you have to be willing to listen to them first. Stubborn children may have strong opinions and tend to argue.

They may become defiant if they feel that they aren’t being heard. Most of the time, when your child insists on doing or not doing something, listening to them and having an open conversation about what’s bothering them can help in effective problem-solving. For example, if your child is throwing a tantrum to finish lunch, then do not force-feed your child. Instead, ask them why they do not want to eat and listen – it could be because they are playful or having a tummy ache.

2.Connect With Them, Don’t Force Them:

When you force children into something, they tend to rebel and do everything they should not. The term that best defines this behaviour is counterwill, which is a common trait of stubborn children. Counterwill is instinctive and is not restricted to children alone. Connect with your children.

Children who connect with their parents or caregivers want to cooperate. “Establishing an unshakable connection with defiant children makes it easier to deal with them,” says Susan Stiffelman in her book Parenting Without Power Struggles.

3.Give Them Options:

Stubborn children might have a mind of their own and don’t always like being told what to do. Tell your stubborn four-year-old child that she has to be in bed by 9pm, and all you will get from them is a loud “No!”. Tell your adamant five-year-old child to buy a toy you chose; they will NOT want that. Give your children options and not directives to keep room for flexibility. Instead of telling them to go to bed, ask them if they want to read bedtime stories A or B.

Your child could continue to be defiant and say, “I am not going to bed!”. When that happens, stay calm and tell them matter-of-factly, “well, that was not one of the choices”. You can repeat the same thing as many times as needed, and as calmly as possible. When you sound like a broken record, your child is likely to give in.

That said, too many options aren’t good either. For example, asking your child to pick one outfit from the wardrobe could leave them confused. You can avoid this problem by minimising the options to two or three outfits picked by you and asking your child to pick from those.

4.Stay Calm:

Yelling at a defiant, screaming child will turn an ordinary conversation between a parent and a child into a shouting match. Your child might take your response as an invitation to verbal combat. This will only make things worse. It is up to you to steer the conversation to a practical conclusion as you are the adult. Help your child understand the need to do something or behave in a specific manner.

A huge aspect of the general ethos of parenting is finding teachable moments. But stubborn kids don’t want to learn from teachable moments, and no one will make them. And if you think you can, well, they will hold their breath until they pass out and teach you something.

5.Respect Them:

Your child would probably not accept authority if you forced it onto him. So here are a few ways you can model respect and supportiveness in your relationship:

Seek cooperation, don’t insist on adherence to directives.

Have consistent rules for all your children, and do not be lax just because you find it convenient.

6.Empathise with them .

never dismiss their feelings or ideas.

Let your children do what they can for themselves, avoid the temptation to do something for them, to reduce their burden. This also tells them that you trust them.

Say what you mean and do what you say.

Lead by example is the mantra you should follow here because your children are observing you all the time, according to Betsy Brown Braun, the author of You’re Not The Boss Of Me.

7.Work With Them:

Stubborn or strong-willed children are highly sensitive to how you treat them. So be watchful of the tone, body language, and vocabulary you use. When they become uncomfortable with your behavior, they do what they know best to protect themselves: they rebel, talkback, and display aggression.

Changing the way you approach a stubborn child can change how they react to you. Rather than telling them what to do, partner with them.

8.Use statements like “let’s do this…”, “how about we try that…” instead of “I want you to do … ”.

9.Use fun activities to get your children to do something. For example, if you want your stubborn child to put their toys away, start doing it yourself and ask them to be your “special helper”.

You could also time the activity and challenge the child to put the toys away faster than you can. This is a sneaky trick that mostly works.


Sometimes, it is necessary to compromise and negotiate with your children. It is common for them to act out when they aren’t getting what they want. If you want them to listen to you, you need to know what’s stopping them from doing so.

Start by asking a few questions like, “What is bothering you?” “Is something the matter?” or “Do you want anything?” to get them to talk about it. This tells them that you respect their wishes and are willing to consider them.

Negotiation need not necessarily mean that you always give in to their demands. It’s all about being considerate and practical.

For example, your child may not be willing to go to bed at a set hour. Rather than insisting, try and negotiate a bedtime that suits both of you.

Source : www.livegistmedia.blogspot.com

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