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“Strong-willed child” are not bad words!

By Rebecca Ritchey //

The strong-willed child. That short phrase can cause a chill to run up your back. And when you think of saying, “No,” a visual of a tiny natural disaster setting off flashes to mind.

A strong-willed child has been called many things — but the more positive descriptions are that the child is spirited, headstrong, decisive and unbending. Those are great characteristics to have as an adult, but when shaping these little ones, it can be a cause for heartache, headache, and defeat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like throwing my hands in the air and saying, “I don’t know what to do!” The good news is we are not alone, and parenting a strong-willed child can produce a positively driven adult.

I have three strong-willed children, each with their own challenges. The more I have spoken to other parents, the more I realize that the strong-willed child is really not an oddity at all. I have found that when I open up about one of my strong-willed children, or someone sees them in action, I am able to form a common ground with another parent. In finding the common ground, you are able to encourage one another, laugh, and step in to help. And there are thousands of books written about this topic.

There is hope

I recently read a statistic that 85 percent of children who are strong-willed will return to parental values as an adult. If you have a strong-willed child, keep guiding her and loving her while showing her the correct path to take. According to Dr. James Dobson, “What this means, first of all, is that these tough-minded kids will argue and fight and complain throughout their years at home, but the majority will turn around when they reach young adulthood and do what their parents most desired. That should be reassuring.”

Let’s be real

I was a very strong-willed child myself. I spoke to my mom about this. During my teenage years, my parents were very concerned about whether they and I would survive. I did get into trouble and rebelled as a teenager and young adult. As an adult, I have become very driven, passionate, and as my mom told me, I have become her friend as well as her daughter. My parents did what they thought best, and I commend them and thank them for not giving up on me.

I’m not an expert, of course, but I have learned a few things about raising a strong-willed child. One of the best things you can do for them is to love them through the tough times. Let your child know that you love them. Be there for them. My mom would stay up at night and listen to me talk as a teenager; that was the time I would actually open up. If your child is young, guide them consistently, and use a balance of punishment and rewards.

Ritchey is CEO of the Ritchey household, the mother of three children and wife to Jonathan. Reach her at