Strong Willed Children

I need some help! My sweet little Addie...
is not always all that 'sweet'. I really don't know what to do with her. She has major meltdowns when she doesn't get her way, she yells A LOT, and cries lots too. I know what you're thinking...she's 3, that's what 3 year olds do. Or maybe...she's a GIRL!! But its not just that. Jack went through this stage when he was 3 too, but he was more manageable. We could send him to his own space to calm down and he would come back a whole new kid. I tried that with Addie on Sunday (and many other times too)...at church. She just screamed louder and started kicking the door. I don't want to say its embarrassing because somehow that makes me feel like a bad mom, but it really is embarrassing. I'll ask her to do something, like brush her teeth, and her response is, "Never, I will NEVER brush my teeth!" She's not a bad kid. I just am having the hardest time figuring out how to help her. Does she need more time with me, more time away from me, something more active to get energy out, more nap time, less stimulating activities in the day...I DON'T KNOW.

Is there anyone out there who can sympathize with me? Do you have kids like this? Do you have any suggestions?

Goodness, after that I feel like I also need to add...she is such a kind sweet girl too. She's not ALWAYS yelling and throwing tantrums. Sometimes she'll just run up to give me a hug and tell me she missed me and she loves me "SO MUCH!" And she loves 'cuddles' and helping me make dinner, which I think is sweet.


  1. After 7 years, mine is still like this. Here is my favorite advice:



  2. although i think colson's a little different than addie, he's definitely tested me A LOT!! i try to remember love and logic advice (which is hard since i read it so long ago). i'm still learning how to handle certain situations with him, but some things that have helped me are to:

    1) LISTEN. when he's angry and yelling, i've realized he just needs a listening ear. he needs to know we care. it helps to get down on his level, speak kindly, and say, 'when ___ took your toy, how did it make you feel?' (or whatever the situation calls for. just make sure she feels like you care, instead of just being angry at her for acting 'childish'. i usually tell him i totally understand those emotions and i feel them sometimes too. i tell him it's okay to be angry(/sad/frustrated, etc) but we just need to learn how to DEAL with those emotions. it's not appropriate to yell and kick and scream. we need to learn what makes us calm down, by listening to our bodies and talking to mommy when we're feeling that way.

    2) LET THEM SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS. after we talk about how he's feeling, i ask, 'how do you think you handled the situation?' he usually knows he overreacted and i'll ask what he could do next time, or what an appropriate response to the situation would have been. we end with a hug and i ask him to try next time, to take a deep breath and either leave the room and try to calm himself, or TALK to me when he's frustrated.

    3) CHOICES throughout the day are helpful too. they feel a little more in control.

    4) COMPROMISE. when she's acting that way, instead of a firm punishment, it could me more of a discussion about what she thinks should be done. of course she still needs to know it's not okay and she's not going to get out of it, but if you say something like, 'well, you know the rules. we don't scream at mommy and we don't kick. AND we're at church. is this an appropriate place to act like that? what do YOU think? should you go to time out in this corner, or should you get the coloring things and toys taken away and sit quietly next to mommy on the bench?' if she chooses to sit quietly and then DOESN'T, you take her out (KINDLY and PATIENTLY) and put her in time out in the corner and tell her, 'i gave you the choice,but that didn't work out. when we don't obey, our choices get taken away.' and i always end with a kiss and an 'i love you'. (really just because colsie needs a lot of reassurance that just because he's in trouble doesn't mean i don't love him)

    hope that helps? i'm definitely no expert but i HAVE had TONS of experience with frustrating situations that make you want to scream. : )

  3. oh. my. gosh. that was a long comment. sorry, it's really hard for me to keep these things short, because there's so much to say.

  4. This is my first time commenting on this blog so...I'm Taryn Hansen's friend. I only have a 1 year old so I don't have any experience myself, however my mother in law has her PhD in early childhood development and this is part of what she told me about tantrums.

    "Toddlers don't usually have all the skills they need to calm themselves. They have some -- like sucking their thumbs or pacifier, clutching their blankie -- but not enough. When we talk about emotion regulation with toddlers we call it "co-regulation" because much of the regulation has to come from an adult. Part of the reason toddlers tantrum is because they can't get their emotions under control by themselves.

    You need to help her figure out how to get her emotions under control and help her with it. This might mean holding, rocking, rubbing her back, crooning, or whatever feels soothing to her.

    Ideally you want to catch the emotional outburst before it becomes full-blown because it is hard to do any of that when she is screaming and kicking on the floor. However, even in the thick of it, a soothing, calming voice is helpful. (Try diversion when you can see the tantrum coming on.)

    With toddlers one of the most important things to do is to avoid the "no" word as much as you can. For example, if she wants a cookie, you are probably tempted to say: "No, you can't have a cookie. You have to eat your sandwich first."

    Instead, say "OK. You can have a cookie after you have your sandwich." Of course, they seem like the same message to you, but the second version conveys cooperation with her agenda and respect for her viewpoint, while also conveying the value that nutritious foods come first -- all without using the dreaded "no" word.

    Cooperating with a child is not the same thing as giving in. Often you can find a way to meet her halfway on something.

    The principal is the same at any age: Try to cooperate with her agenda whenever it is reasonable, so that she will cooperate with your agenda. Mutual respect is really important at any age. If you have a cooperative relationship, then when you really have to put your foot down about major issues, she will be more willing to be obedient."

    It seems easier said than done, but good luck!

  5. Sarah- It's like you wrote this post JUST for me:) we are parenting the same chid!
    I feel your pain!(you know who I am talking about too;)
    Out of my 5 kiddos S is the hardest for me to figure out! I have tried ALL of those things mentioned above and more and she still does jaw dropping, embarrassing, out of control things that really make me question my parenting...BUT like you said about Addie- she is also SO sweet and helpful. Her strengths are REALLY amazing and and even jaw dropping too at times! She can be my most difficult child OR my most hard working child.
    I think that really strong willed or "passionate" personalities can be good ...when channeled and tempered. Every so often I will catch a glimpse of what S will be like as teenager (both good and bad) and also as a mom and I get excited for her (and for me too:) to outgrow all the tantrums and the "fussies" and to figure out how to channel all of that passion into something really good. So, I know this isn't very helpful in terms of giving you tips or recommendations but just know you are not alone! love ya Sare!

  6. Ok- I actually thought of something helpful...kind of generic but...PRAY- specifically for her and for YOU to know what to do in those really frustrating, intense, irrational moments that she may have. I can tell a big difference in my ability to parent her when I'm doing that rather than just praying for her to behave better. I also pray that I can model the behavior I'm trying to teach her, because let me just say it is SO HARD when she is acting super-irrational, for me to keep it cool! And I bet that is when she is watching me the most:)

  7. THANK YOU ALL! The best part of reading the comments is knowing that I'm NOT the only one, which I really already knew, but sometimes forget! These comments made for some great bed time reading. I feel a little like you, Caroline, like I've tried it all and its just not working, but now I'm starting to think I hit a breaking point recently and am now ready to try again with a fresh attitude. I really enjoyed everyone's advice! There's lots of overlap between everyone's ideas which, to me, means you're all onto something. I'm going to work out a plan and see where it takes us! Thanks again!

  8. Wow! Such great comments . . . lots of good advice, Sis. My fix all is right in line with Caroline. PRAY. Each child is so different, and they go through each age and stage differently. I too feel like the both of you . . . you try so many things, but often to no avail, that you feel like you're at your wits end. Sometimes the only tweak you can make is to trust in the Lord and let yourself be led by the Spirit. I am in this "place" too. Not because of one "spirited" child, but because of all of them! It's been an interesting week to say the least, and has made me question myself a lot . . . "what am I doing wrong?" Anyway, hang in there . . . you are a GREAT mommy, and Addie is a sweet girl. I know you two will figure it out together. :)