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How to Help Your Strong-Willed Child Become an Innovator

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Raising children is challenging enough but when your child is strong-willed you often feel constantly pushed to the breaking point. In fact, most strong-willed children actually are trying to push you past the limits because there’s an innovator inside telling them greater things can be found past these limits. When my strong-willed child was about eight I found her and her two friends out in the front yard with some of their toys on a big blanket and a crudely written sign that said, “Toys for sale.” I asked her why she was selling her toys. She told me it was to make money to buy the toy I told her we couldn’t afford. Her innovation had found a way for her. And the people driving by thought it was so cute they stopped to buy the stuff.

Innovators express themselves as children by shoving against the boundaries around them. These are the guidelines parents put into place to teach and train them for life. And it can feel exhausting when you, as the parent, constantly find yourself in a battle of the wills. But what if you and your child could work together to further develop their trailblazing skills within healthy limitations? Here are some tools to help.

Explain why a rule is in place.

Understanding the reasons behind limitations helps them to cooperate. To an innovator, “Because I said so” sounds like an invitation to resist or push back. Be prepared for them to have other ideas. They are constantly thinking outside the box. If they come up with a better solution, be humble enough to agree.

Give them fun projects and puzzles to solve that require thinking outside the box.

If you find yourself stuck in a project you’re working on, ask them to help solve the problem. Whether it’s a technology hitch, recipe substitution, a stubborn stain on clothes, or bugs eating your garden ask them to help you work through it. Even if you don’t agree with their ideas try it anyway. If it fails they’ve learned something and the process helped them feel validated.

Recognize when their seeming stubbornness is belligerence and when it’s frustration.

Ask more questions and find out why they’re frustrated with what you’ve asked of them. Yelling at them or forcing them into things will only make you their problem instead of solving the real problem. Why are they fighting you?

Champion their efforts.

When you see your boundary breaker finding a way around obstacles make sure you tell them how proud you are of their ability to make a way where there wasn’t a way before. By celebrating appropriate ways to express their strong will it encourages them to keep finding new ways to do so and builds their self-esteem.

When their boundary pushing goes too far, handle it with patience and let the consequences do the teaching.

When this same child was ten she came home from the playground one day and proudly presented me with a hood ornament from a car. She said, “Mommy! We can sell this and make money.” After calmly asking for more details I discovered she saw it on a car from the school’s auto shop, and thinking it was abandoned, the hood ornament was there for the taking. To her, it was a hidden treasure she had found. Instead of being angry we simply explained things to her and had to report it to the school. She went in and told the principal what she had done and why and they were great about it. She learned something important that day and the innovator inside her wasn’t stifled.

How is your strong-willed child expressing their innovation in positive ways?


If you could invent anything in the world, what would you invent?

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