Characteristics of a Strong-Willed Child

If you suspect that your child may be considered a "strong-willed child," chances are you put a high amount of energy into your daily parenting tasks 2. Strong-willed children -- also known as "spirited children" -- are often perceived by adults as possessing traits that cause their behaviors to be difficult to manage. Learning what these specific traits are and how to handle your child's challenging behaviors can help create a more harmonious dynamic between you and your child.

The Experts Agree

According to numerous childhood behavior experts, the strong-willed child possesses specific characteristics that can be observed from an early age throughout the preschool and elementary years 2. Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, licensed teacher and parent educator, stipulates that a strong-willed child displays intensity, persistence and frequent mood shifts on a regular basis 2. In line with these traits, pediatrician Dr. William Sears points out that a strong-willed child can be highly demanding, unsatisfied with choices an adult offers and continually demonstrate an elevated level of energy 2. Child and family psychiatrist Dr. Turecki similarly describes strong-willed children as being extremely active, intense and stubborn 2.

Responses to the Environment

Kurcinka, Sears and Turecki all agree that a strong-willed child is more sensitive to his environment and has a difficult time handling environmental stimulation 2. If your child is strong-willed, it is probably that he is highly distractible and notices every detail of what is happening around him 2. Strong-willed children also have difficulty adapting to changes in their environment and schedule and may struggle with transitions. They may be quick to withdraw when encountering something new for the first time.

Interacting with Others

A strong-willed child tends to want to control others with whom she interacts 2. It can be an arduous task for a strong-willed child to react patiently or calmly to others when things are not going as the strong-willed child sees fit 2. Some strong-willed children may react assertively or aggressively towards other children in a confrontational situation. An older strong-willed child may frequently tell others what to do and attempt to control every aspect of the relationship dynamic 2.

Although the traits of a strong-willed child can prove to be a challenge for parents, learning ways to nurture your child's intensity and tenacious personality can help him develop into a solid, self-confident young adult 12. Try not to label your child's strong-willed behaviors as "bad." Set clear limits with your child and respond to his behaviors in a consistent, firm manner 2. Acknowledge your child's feelings, even if his stubbornness and intensity may not make sense to you as an adult. Do your best to focus on your child's positive traits and good behaviors in order to channel his energy into beneficial experiences.