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How to Parent Stubborn Children

The one thing that I am exceptionally good at is producing very head strong offspring. The one thing I really had to work at was learning to parent them.
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Girl (2-4) sitting on bed, rear view
Girl (2-4) sitting on bed, rear view

The one thing that I am exceptionally good at is producing very head strong offspring. The one thing I really had to work at was learning to parent them. Each one seems to be more difficult than the last. Some days are much easier than others, but in the end I know that I am sending unique and individual children into the world. It is just getting them there that proves to be difficult.


Through the years, I have learned to choose my battles. In the beginning I would fuss over everything and seek perfection in all that I did. I wanted to be the perfect mom with the perfect children. Probably about seven years in, my kids broke me. I gave up that idealistic perspective and realized it just was not rational. Kids yell in the most inopportune moments. They make dining out hell.

If you are on an important call, you better watch your child. They are little spies who listen for the tone of your voice when that phone rings to see how distracted you are, then they are off to get into everything you say "NO!" to. I spent so many years stressing and being miserable. Now, I do things a bit different.

Listen and Be Present
Sounds simple right? It isn't. Families are incredibly busy. We have a lot going on and when we see each other, there may not always be time to catch up. Make the time. Don't worry about doing that last load of dishes, it will get done tomorrow. The phone calls you need to make or the report you have to write, you can finish those tomorrow too. What you won't be able to do is ask your children about their day and actually hear what they are saying.

Don't look at your phone or read what is in front of you. Hear them and treat them with the respect you give to others. When you do this, they start to give it right back. Children are pretty simple creatures. They just want to be recognized as individuals who have important things to say. Value them and their opinions, even if you disagree. At times, that is where I have some trouble. If I disagree, I tend to shut down. Then, my kids think I am not listening. At times, I'm not. It is still a work in progress for me too.

Work With Your Kids, Not Against Them

Many times, children tend to get frustrated and lash because as parents we tell them what to do instead of working with them. My daughter taught me that this style of parenting just leads to a lot of screaming and tears...usually from both of us. My little girl has autism, but really this applies to every child. We can shout at kiddos to pick up toys or to do their homework, but they typically resist.

The whining and crying begins and then you have to start the time outs and punishments. I learned years ago that to get my kids to do things it was much easier to work with them. I would ask them why they were frustrated or what the hardest parts of the task were, and most importantly, what I could do to help them. When you change your approach, your child's attitude will change too.

Be Firm
My kiddos will tell you I am the mean one. I am the rule maker and there are few times I bend them. I do not negotiate, especially when bad behavior is involved. The one thing I learned is if I say it, I better mean it. So, if you make a threat to your children, you have to follow through. If not, the next time you say something and expect them to believe you, they won't.

So, if your child misses curfew and the punishment is no car for a month, you cannot cave. If you do, the next time they are running late, in their mind it is no big deal because you won't follow through with the punishment. Just be sure any punishment you say out loud, you are ready to enforce. It isn't always easy, I promise.

A few times a day, I take a time out. I need a few minutes to myself for my mental health just to collect my thoughts and breathe. Allow yourself to have a moment. When your children have been calling your name every three seconds and the house is a mess, take a moment. If you just woke up and you are already irritated, take a moment. There is no hard-fast rule. If you need it, take it. You can spare twenty minutes a day. honest. We spend the other twenty-three hours and some odd minutes being parents, you can spare a few just for you. Don't feel guilty.

Be You
None of us are perfect, but the beauty of that is our children think we are. They love and adore us no matter what. In their eyes, we can do no wrong. So, be an inspiration to your child and let them see you achieve and accomplish your goals. Be a role model and allow them to be proud of you. In the end, you are your child's biggest influence.


Raising children is incredibly hard, raising a stubborn child is even harder. Give yourself a break and don't try to be that mom you see on the magazine cover. She doesn't exist. Instead, just be the best version of you that you can possibly be today. Some days are going to be better than others. So, be today's best, today.