3 Ways to Mindfully Respond to Your Strong-Willed Child

by Jessica Barnes, LPCA |Mindsight Barbourville Team Leader


Have you ever dreaded walking into Walmart with your toddler? Do you dread the meltdown because you couldn’t purchase the toy that catapulted your child into this wailing, thrashing, screaming, fire breathing toddler? In those few minutes you may feel frightfully alone and certainly feel the stares from ongoing shoppers as they walk by silently or verbally offering their not so supportive glares and comments. As you read these tips in practicing a mindful response, I ask that you, YES, YOU, keep an open mind and extend a small bit of empathy as we think about your Strong-Willed Child.



Included below are 3 mindful responses that strengthen your relationship with your child while decreasing those unruly and less than desired responses.

  1. Acknowledge and Identify feelings with words- The next time your strong willed toddler yells, “I hate you, you never get me anything.” Try to employ these small tips.

  • Bite the inside of your lip and hold back the intrusive thought that popped straight into your head, that is certainly going to contradict the feeling your little one has shown you.

  • Think about the emotion that your child has just expressed.

  • Identify that emotion and use it in a sentence to increase mindfulness.

Response: “You are really angry that we could not get that toy today.” Or “I really annoyed you when we couldn’t get you a new toy today.”

You are helping teach your son/daughter a crucial vocabulary which will help them process those unruly emotions they are feeling. Imagine the victory as your child yells “I am so annoyed,” instead of biting little Johnny because he took his toy.



2. TRY PROBLEM SOLVING

  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings. “I can see that you don’t like when you can’t get a toy.”

  • Describe the problem: “The problem is; we don’t have time to venture to the toy isle today.”

  • Ask for ideas: “We need some ideas so that we can get back to completing our grocery shopping without people getting angry. What can we do?

  • Decide which ideas you both like: “You like the idea of making time to look at toys if we can get all of the shopping finished.”

  • Try out his/her idea: “We have 15 minutes to finish our grocery shopping, if we are able to make it through the grocery section in less than 10 minutes, we can venture to the toy section for 5 minutes.”

Using concrete ways to problem solve can help your strong willed child understand the importance of being mindful of time, risks, situations and boundaries. Children do not know how to problem solve, by taking a few minutes to talk through these steps you are assisting your child to be aware of his/her emotions, behaviors, and actions.



3. MAKE A LIST


Now, I know what you are thinking… make a list, really? Children love to feel like their voice matters. Let’s face it, adults desire to be heard. Let me give you an example… As you walk mindlessly through the toy isle for the 3rd time, you mentally check out while your child rambles about the new Incredible’s toy he spots. You didn’t hear the last 3 minutes of the conversation because you are mulling over what to make for dinner, and wait, did you even clock out before leaving the office? Suddenly your child becomes aware and wants your attention. He noticed that talking in a normal voice wasn’t working, so he chooses to yell. Suddenly, you are well aware that your child is talking. See what he did there? Let’s try heading this tantrum before it even begins.

  • Engage in the conversation and while your child excitedly discusses needing ALL the toys.

  • Acknowledge his feelings- “You get so excited talking about some of your favorite movie characters.”

  • Make a list- “Since you are so excited about these toys, lets make a list of the special toys that you are wanting. When Gramps and Grandma come over later we can tell them all about it.”

When we learn to channel awareness of thoughts, feelings, actions, and the impact of environmental sensations on our actions, we foster a semblance of control over our actions. Teaching these concepts to our children, not only help them verbalize and foster emotional growth, but we are empowering them to show empathy while learning strategies that they will utilize for the rest of their life.


If you or someone you know, would like more information or could use some help implementing some of these strategies in your own home, please reach out to us. My team and I would love to help!


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