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Parenting Tools: Understanding and Coping with the Strong-Willed Child


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Another more systematic approach is the five weeks course of Forehand and Long.  To approach a strong-willed child’s misbehavior, Forehand and Long offer strategies of attending, rewarding, ignoring, giving directions, and time-out (57-141).  By attending, parents learn to show that they “notice and are interested in their child’s appropriate behavior” (74).  If this parental behavior is carried out frequently in a positive home environment without the habits of giving out directions and questions, attending will increase the frequency of the child’s appropriate behaviors (75-77).  The rewarding strategy is designed to ensure that the strong-willed child knows his parents’ approval of what he or she is doing (87).  In this strategy, parents will occasionally use praises and rewards while attending the child’s behaviors (87).  While the ignoring strategy is to decrease undesired behaviors (103), the strategy of giving directions is to show parents how to give clear directions, and avoid chain directions, vague directions, question directions in such a way that will increase the likelihood of the child’s cooperation and obedience (111).  Lastly, the time-out strategy is discussed due to its exceptional and clinical-proven effectiveness towards noncompliant behaviors (125). 


The effectiveness of Forehand and Long’s five weeks course is tested further by Nicola Conners, Mark Edwards, and April Grant (2006) who start a six-week parent education program based on Forehand and Long’s book Parenting the Strong-Willed Child for seventy-one families with strong-willed children.  At the end of the program, parents report “significant improvements in both the frequency and intensity of child behavior problems … significant reductions in parenting stress, as well as improvements in their parenting behaviors, including a reduction in the use of lax discipline techniques and emotional reactivity in the context of discipline encounters”.   In addition, these authors say that all improvements are sustained six months later.


Since many factors influence the strong-willed child’s behavior, professor Stephen Duncan of Brigham Young University (qtd. in Megan Northrup) and Forehand and Long also emphasize the need for parents to create a nurturing environment for effective “behavior change” in a strong-willed child (153), improve communication skills, develop realistic parental expectations (167-182), develop and control their patience, and manage their stressful lives (183-198).  The authors also suggest parents to build positive self-esteem into the strong-willed child (199-213) and problem solving skills for the successful future of the strong-willed child in the society (215-225).  


















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