Most of the tasks we assign children to do, especially chores, are not particularly enjoyable. These requests often require the child to stop what he or she was doing (usually something preferred) to perform this unpleasant activity. As a result, children may experiment with ways of escaping from, or avoiding chores by developing oppositional behaviour towards parent commands. Over time, parents may come to request progressively fewer commands of the child, knowing in advance they will be met with resistance (e.g., temper tantrums) by the child. Parents instead may assume more of the child’s chores and responsibilities or assign them to a more compliant sibling. Parents may also come to acquire a set of rapidly escalating coercive behaviours to use with the child because of those rare occasions where yelling, threatening, or punishing the child has eventually led to compliance.
Responding appropriately to a child with an easy temperament is relatively simple when compared to the frustrations of managing a strong-willed child. Yelling and other less than ideal strategies often feel like the only solutions in dealing with a child who challenges limits at every turn. Strong-willed children are more likely than other children to react intensely, to frustrate or become emotional quickly, and be adamant that they maintain control over decision-making. In addition, a number of these children may be highly active and/or more inattentive and impulsive than same-aged peers. Children that refuse to do what adults ask or expect of them, are temperamental or easily annoyed, and break/ignore common rules run the risk of not fitting in or getting along with others. Their actions may impede school success, normal social development, and family harmony. When ignored, defiant behaviour tends to progress into a more debilitating conduct problem in later years.
We offer a clinically proven eight step program to reduce temper tantrums, argumentative behaviours, and deliberate annoyance, while increasing cooperative play, compliance to adult requests and rules, and assuming greater personal responsibility. These sessions involve both children and parents, and involve modeling the treatment exercises followed by active participation of parents. The key is to nurture your strong-willed child’s positive qualities while minimizing the impact of his or her negative qualities on others. You will need to work with your child to direct his or her strong will in more appropriate ways.