Dealing With Strong-Willed Kids: 7 Tips That Works For Us

We’ve been blessed with a kid with lots of gumption.

That really is a wonderful thing.

I’m sure it will open many doors for him and help him push through when life gets tough.


It sure is a bit challenging too, at times.
(Especially when he doesn’t agree with us 😅)

This article is a bit long, so here are links to each section:

A Few Things We’ve Learned

We have picked up a few “tricks” along the way that I hope can be useful!

#1 – Giving Freedom – While Standing Firm on SOME Things

Strong-willed kids often need a high level of freedom. They love to be able to have an opinion on things–to be heard.

Our son sure does.

He loves to be able to decide for himself. So we let him do so
– when it makes sense.

We try and encourage him to form a good argument. We praise him when he does a good job of explaining himself.

Now, this may all sound like we don’t set boundaries for him. Or sound like we include him in all decisions that concern him.

That’s not the case.

We all know, it’s important that kids learn to respect a “no”.

I believe it’s even more important for kids with lots of gumption to learn to respect authorities.

Authorities for kids are mom, dad, teachers, other parents, etc.

Better to learn to accept authorities now than later in life, right?

We try to keep a few things that are non-negotiables – issues we NEVER budge on.

When we take those battles–and stick to them–he typically calms down and is gentle and cooperative (after the arguments).

These are some of the things we stand firm on:

Here are some ideas to give your younger kid freedom (independence):

  • Let him choose what to wear today
  • Let her choose what spread to have on her sandwich
  • Let your kid practice washing their own body at bathtime

Pro-Dad tip:
You can avoid power struggles by pre-selecting the choices–then your child can’t make a bad choice!

#2 – Careful Not To Be TOO Strict

Parents of strong-willed kids often have to spend more time enforcing rules and boundaries.

It’s easy to fall into being the “grumpy parent”.

Make sure to loosen up and let the kid feel your love every day.

You have time.

Some stuff can wait till next week or next month. Pick your battles, and grab an extra coffee when needed 😅.

#3 – Crafting a Plan With Them

When we tell him “No” – it often helps to let him know when he CAN do it.

If we decide that now is not the time for playing iPad, it helps to let him know that he’ll get to do it later. Maybe after homework is done.

Keeping him in the loop goes a long way.

You can almost watch him grow an inch when we listen to his arguments.

#4 – Knowing WHY Sometimes Helps

“Because we say so” really doesn’t fly.

Explaining “WHY” can help when we need to leave the house at a certain time.


  • Why it’s important to clean his room
  • Why he cannot spend all his money
  • Why we cannot go too fast in the car

I’m sure all kids need to know why, but I feel like good reasons are extra important for kids with that extra “spunk” – the kids who struggle to understand why others have to set boundaries and rules for them.

#5 – Give your Kid Space to Learn

Strong-willed kids are problem-solvers, leaders, and critical thinkers – they are determined and passionate.

We need to give them space to learn to use these skills in a good way.

Experts say that these kids are experiential learners; they learn by doing.

We already know they don’t like to be told what to do.

They like a challenge.

In my experience, giving my son space for trial and error gives him a sense of mastery and satisfaction when he has overcome a challenge.

Of course, we don’t let our kids get into dangerous situations.

But we do try to let him figure out tricky tasks on his own.

Here are some dialogue prompts to help your kid work through a tricky task (especially when there is frustration kicking in!):

  • “hmmm, that looks tricky. I wonder how we can figure this out?”
  • “Oh man, that looks really tough. I also get a little frustrated when I can’t figure something out”
  • “You’re getting it, you’re on the right track. Keep going”

#6 – Know your Own Limits

A lot about being a parent is recognizing your own emotions and limits.

I learned something super helpful,

You need to regulate yourself first to help your child regulate their emotions.

The last thing we want as parents is to yell at our kids or do something we regret.

In the times you feel yourself reaching boiling point–know when to step out for a few minutes.

Let your child know you are feeling frustrated and you need a minute.

It helps if there is another adult you can tag team with.

If not, turn your back (so they are still safe in the room with you) and take a few deep breaths to reset.

#7 – Be a Role Model

Kids are always watching us and listening to us.

They are like sponges.

One of the best tools we have in our parenting toolkit is “modeling”.

In your daily activities, show your child how you can:

  • Be self-disciplined
  • Say please, and thank you
  • Help out around the house
  • Ask for help
  • Say sorry
  • Ask for forgiveness

It’s sometimes easier said than done–I know.

Being a good role model relies on us being more in tune with our own emotions.

Thanks for reading!

Good luck, dads!

Like What You Read? Get My Weekly Newsletter

If you’re not already getting my newsletter, you can do that here:


Scroll to Top