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


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Another critical issue with young children is that without intervention, behavioral problems may develop into a more serious behavioral disorder at later childhood. While studies have shown that some children renounce their conduct problems, others, especially those with persistent and severe problems, continue to display some degrees of misconducts as adults or adolescence (Conners et al. 322).  Another problem that parents may face is that they often do not know how to react appropriately to challenging children since they do not have enough information related to age-appropriate expectations of children (Ferrer et al.).  One inappropriate reaction of some parents is the use of corporal punishment on these misbehaving children that can result in horrifying child abuse stories.  For those parents that find it difficult to cope with the noncompliant child, they often seek help from online resources, books, and other forms of media.  


Unfortunately, there exists a plethora of information related to parenting the noncompliant child, and confusing terms and contradicting advices from leading experts. The average parents may often discomfitted and overwhelmed by these all this advice.  Some parents seek professional help that occasionally offers no positive results.  As a result, we need to carefully examine various resources to understand the many aspects of parenting a strong-willed child age’s two to six.


There are many different definitions of the term ‘strong-willed’ that experts refer to.  According to Dr. Robert MacKenzie, an educational psychologist and family therapist, and the author of the book Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child, 2001, a strong-willed child is a child who persistently tests authorities, ‘resist longer, protest louder, and use more drama’ (3).  Similarly, Dr. Rex Forehand, a research professor of clinical child psychology and director for the Institute for Behavior Research at the University of Georgia, and Dr. Nicholas Long, an associate professor of pediatrics and director of pediatric psychology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital, authors of the bookParenting the Strong-Willed Child, define a strong-willed child is a child with “a strong sense of independence” (Forehand and Long 8). Likewise, Dr. James Dobson, a child psychologist turned evangelist and politician, and the author of the book The New Strong-Willed Child, derives his definition from the book Know Your Child of psychiatrists Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas to explain that a strong-willed child is one who displays “negative reactions to people, intense mood swing, irregular sleep patterns and feeding schedules, frequent periods of crying, and violent tantrums when frustrated” (Dobson 2006).  In the same manner, Dr. Carl Pickhardt, a child psychologist, defines a strong-willed child as one who has more ‘self-determination’ than other normal children (2005).  Lastly, Minnell Tralle, an Extension family relations educator at the University of Minnesota, describes a strong-willed child as one who is “spirited, noncompliant, difficult, or active-alert” (2007).


















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