Teaching Strong-willed Children

Strong-willed, Not Stubborn

Classrooms will always have a few children who are strong-willed. These children can be difficult for both parents and teachers to deal with, as they often come off as stubborn or “difficult.”
A better way to think about it is that the child has a very strong sense of integrity and does not like to feel like he or she must compromise that integrity. Bending to someone else’s will feels like they are not being true to their internal sense of what they should do. Strong-willed teenagers are eloquent enough to explain their thought process to you, but younger children are sometimes stuck in a place where they feel that they must do something, but they don’t know exactly how to explain why.

Offering Choices

One of the best ways to talk to a strong-willed child who is presenting problems in the classroom is to offer choices. All children have a real need to feel like they are in charge of something in their lives; it’s how they’ll learn to regulate themselves and navigate the world. So much of what happens to them is not of their own choice, so it is vital that they are given choices to have control of some things in their life. Allowing children in the classroom to make choices is a great opportunity to allow them to exercise their free will, and can also create opportunities for group discussion and compromise.

Effective Discipline

When children are being especially unruly, it is usually most effective to exact discipline in a calm manner, away from the other students. Children do not want to feel humiliated in front of their peers, and making them feel ashamed can cause them to lash out and become increasingly disruptive over time. If you must ask the child to step into the hallway or the back of the class with you, do so with a very calm, unexpressive demeanor.