In general, I don't think too many children are weak-willed, but those strong-willed daughters are something else, aren't they? You want her to be empowered, assertive, and confident, but you also need her to listen to you when you tell her to do something. My daughter is only 2 years old, and I'm already in need of ways to discipline a strong-willed girl without crushing her confidence.
While basic disciplinary actions, like time-outs and losing privileges are still OK, it feels like there have to be extra precautions taken with strong-willed children, especially girls. With campaigns like Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy teaching parents to empower their daughters rather than belittle them and research finding that strong-willed children are usually courageous, confident, and successful leaders, it's no wonder that you want to nurture that stubborn streak in your daughter rather than completely squash it.
But hey — the kid still has to sit in a car seat.
It's like setting rules for your child without denying them their right to consent. Some things are non-negotiable and when it comes time to discipline your strong-willed daughter, keep these nine things in mind. Not only will they get the job done, but you can preserve her self-confidence and spirit without sacrificing your sanity. (Just kidding. That's already gone.)
1. Offer Her Choices
For many strong-willed children, having a sense of control is really all they're looking for. Parents recommended that instead of giving your child a simple no for an answer, you offer them choices to solve the problem. If your daughter wants to wear a bathing suit to the store and it's snowing outside, simply tell her, "that won't keep you warm enough. Do you want to wear these pants or leggings instead?" You're giving her the chance to make her own decision, which can ease any tantrums over not getting her original want.
2. Choose Your Battles
You're going to have to let some things slide, OK? Having a strong-willed daughter means she's not going to let up very easily. Psychology Today noted that constantly fighting with her over every little thing she does leads you to a day where there was no positive interaction with your child, which can lead to her feeling insecure and unsure. Instead, choose just one or two behaviors to focus on, and let the others slide until you have broken the other habits.
3. Use Positive Reinforcement
A strong-willed daughter is hard work, but she's also creative, enthusiastic, and a leader. The University of Alabama's Parenting Assistance Line suggested using positive reinforcement to help with your little one's discipline. Instead of harping at her for all the things she's doing wrong, reward her for what she's doing right. When she realizes that the good behavior is what's encouraged, she'll be more likely to act that way.
4. Don't Yell
It's hard not to yell. It's really, really hard, especially when your child has pushed you to the edge. But yelling only makes the situation worse, it can escalate your child's negative behavior, and it diminishes your child's security and self-esteem according to Parents.
5. Don't Criticize Her Actions
A disobedient child has to be disciplined, sure, but as Psychology Today noted, you only want to make them listen, not completely ruin their spirit. Instead of arguing with your child that cutting off her bangs makes her look ridiculous, inform her of the dangers of scissors and how she could be seriously hurt trying to cut her own hair.
6. Listen To Her
I know you hear her throwing a fit, but are you actually listening to her? What is it your child wants? You think they're just demanding to sleep in bed with you, but maybe they're really scared of being alone or missing you after a long day at school. According to Psychology Today, discovering why your child is acting the way she is can not only help you discipline her, but can also help her feel heard and that her feelings are worthy.
7. Don't Compare Her To "Good Girls"
Of course you're exhausted by her constant arguing and negotiating for a cookie, but comparing her to "good girls" or reminding her to be ladylike is a definite no-no. Forbes noted that it's OK for your daughter to speak her mind, even if it's not what you want to hear, but by teaching her that women aren't supposed to argue or have conflicts, you could make her nervous to speak up about anything.
8. Redirect Her Energy
Look, that stubborn streak is going to pay off when she's working for a promotion or standing up to a bully, so nurture it through your discipline. When she's being incredibly insistent on something, redirect her energy to something that's more appropriate. Like choosing dinner for the family when she can't have a snack or picking out your clothes when she can't wear what she wanted to. The Ban Bossy campaign from Girl Scouts of the USA suggested teaching your daughter to model assertive behavior, when it's appropriate, to make her feel confident and strong.
9. Discipline Only When Safety Is Compromised
There are obviously some black and white areas when it comes to discipline. Your child doing things that put their self or others in danger is obviously huge and deserves a punishment. But some things your children are doing are really not even worth mentioning noted The Washington Post. Your child refuses to brush her hair? She's the one who has to deal with it in her eyes all the time. She doesn't want to wear socks? Is it really worth arguing about if you're just going to the store? Letting her make her own decisions, as long as they don't compromise her safety, will teach her own life lessons and gives you more energy to actually discipline big problems.