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The Reason I Refuse To Call My Daughter Strong Willed (and What I Call Her Instead)

Do you have a strong willed child? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Let me share how a shift in perception can help you embrace your spirited spitfire.

Recently I spent a lovely day at the beach with a Mom friend of mine. Our daughters are the same age and it was perfect. The sun was hot, but not too hot, and there was a gentle breeze that provided some intermittent relief. The girls were completely immersed in play. Searching for sea snakes in the shallow water (ahem.. there weren’t any), engineering a river from our beach blankets to the lake, and seeing who could jump the highest out of the water.

My friend’s almost 1-year old little boy stayed back with us and just drank it all in. He was perfectly content to suck on his fingers or drum on a plastic bucket. He was so easy… so happy.

And I thought to myself, ‘Wow. That must be nice. My little girl would have never been content to sit on a blanket and just be happy. She would have demanded to be entertained.’

parenting the strong willed child

Parenting Headstrong and High Demand Kids

Does that sound familiar?

Are you blessed with a kid who is ‘more?’

More energetic. High maintenance.

Louder, crazier… you know, more.

If your child fits this description, you probably knew it from the moment they made their grand entrance into this world, right? Kids like this have lots of demands. They are never content to just sit around and watch the world go by.

High demand kids want to be ‘all in.’ They want engagement. They demand attention.

Kids like this are typically referred to as a ‘strong-willed.’ They are often called a ‘strong-willed child.’ I suppose the nicer term is ‘spirited.’

However, I prefer to characterize it as being a ‘spitfire.’ Technically ‘spitfire’ has a negative connotation… but I kind of like it. To me, it is the positive to the negative of strong-willed– the ‘glass is half full’ view of personality traits that, let’s be honest, can be very ‘challenging’ some of the time.

Why does it matter if you refer to a challenging kid as strong-willed instead of spirited or a spitfire?

How Perception Leads to Expectation

Let me ask you a question? Do you view your child’s personality as a liability or an inconvenience to you? What if you changed your perception so that you saw the value in being headstrong or strong minded?

What if by changing your perception about the value of your kid’s personality, you could actually open your heart to the idea that a spirited personality is actually a strength?

You see, perception is very powerful. Most of us think that perception is a passive process… that we are objectively assessing any given situation to the best of our ability. However, the truth is that perception is actually a very active and dynamic process that shapes reality.

As parents, if we perceive that our child’s personality is a liability or something to be corrected, guess what? That perception will color how we interact with them and chances are it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely, if you intentionally challenge your perception, your expectations will change as well and that will most likely have a positive impact on the way you parent.

We tend to perceive what we expect to perceive.*

So, how can you shift your perception, literally shift your mindset and your expectations about your child, so that you begin to see your strong willed child through a more positive, and probably constructive lens?

How Does a Strong Willed Child Transform into a Spirited Spitfire?

The good news is that even subtle shifts in perception will have a powerful impact on how you interact with your child. It can be as simple as just using more positive words to describe your little spitfire:

Rambunctious becomes Passionate.

Loud becomes Joyful.

Persistent becomes Enthusiastic.

Intense becomes Fierce.

Bossy? How about a leader?

Stubborn? How about Decisive?

Too emotional or sensitive can be viewed as empathetic.

High maintenance may very well just be a sign of curiosity.

Demanding most assuredly will become someone who will not be taken advantage of.

parenting the strong willed child

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Your Future Leader

I could go on— there are actually many reasons to be overjoyed that your spitfire is a little challenging now. Chances are they will grow up to be:

  • strong
  • creative
  • pro-active
  • a go-getter
  • a leader

It doesn’t sound so horrible now, does it? Of course, the tricky thing is that right now… at such a tender age, they are not mature enough to refine their loudness, channel their passion. They are just starting to figure out what it means to have a will, to have an opinion.

Admittedly, right now they are a handful. Right now it sometimes feels like they are literally draining the life force right out of you.

So, why do it?

Why Should You Change Your Mindset Now?

Why go through the trouble of trying to re-frame the way you view your child? I mean, their behavior is probably not going to change just because you decide to put on rose-colored glasses, right?

One of the reasons I decided to actively change my perception of my daughter is that I didn’t want to extinguish her flame. I want that fire burning brightly into adulthood.

Right now you may be tired, overwhelmed, inconvenienced… but wow, isn’t it so much more important to encourage the very traits now that will be prized assets later?

So, I changed my perception. My daughter was transformed from a ‘strong-willed child’ into a spitfire… and so far, that shift has made a huge difference for both of us.

I bet it would make a huge difference for you too!

Thanks for reading!

*quote attributed to Richards S. Heuer, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis

Join the Superkids Movement!

Speaking of Spirited Spitfires, do you have a Superkid? I bet you do!

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a community or a resource that spoke directly to you, the parent of a Superkid? Well, you are totally in luck because those things do exist… and the Superkid Movement is just beginning! Why not join today?

I love everything about this movement. It’s almost like Dayna, the creator and author of the book (and everything else) stepped inside my brain and took notes. ha!

There are a number of ways you can get involved.

  1. You can order (or pre-order) a copy of The Superkids Activity Guide To Conquering Every Day (click on the photo to check out the book!):

  1. You can join the FREE Superkids Movement Facebook Community here (psst. I am in it because I have a Superkid too!):

Let’s Celebrate our Superkids together!

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Diane C

Saturday 7th of February 2015

What a wonderful post! I, too, am raising a 'spitfire' and your shift in perception is wonderful and necessary. Emphasizing the positive side of your child's personality traits will increase her confidence (and yours) in the face of others who expect a calm, quiet, and malleable child to be present all the time.

My son is 12 and he's truly amazing, though others may see him as sometimes overbearing and loud. Because of his awesome embrace on life, he's not afraid to try something new. He's the most empathetic of all his friends and he notices and talks about the beauty in little things that most people take for granted.

So, as for hints on how to parent a 'spitfire': Stay flexible, be your child's champion, and recognize what's best for your child vs. what you want to be best. That last point is one that took me a long time to learn and I sometimes still struggle with it.

When he grows up, I think my son might become a lawyer (because he loves to press a point), or a mayor (because he must know everyone in the school and be a part of everything), or a teacher (because he is exuberant about learning new things and loves to tell others about those things). I'm hoping he will become a teacher because his enthusiasm, joy, and passion for life will surely shine through in that profession AND he'll likely be able to connect with other 'spitfire’ children as well.

Herchel S

Saturday 7th of February 2015

I also have a little spitfire. I know that when she is a young woman, she will be independent, determined, and ambitious so these traits (though difficult for her parents at times) are awesome in the long run lol. I remind myself of that fact daily!

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