Strong Willed Calder

Hugh and I have been on a parenting quest.  The last week most of our conversations have been focused around Calder.

We have a strong willed child. No idea where he could have gotten that from. My guesses are my sister and Hugh's brother ;-) Well, and maybe me :-) Basically this means that Calder wants his way, all the time, no matter what. For example Calder wants to decide which toothbrush he uses each morning. He  chooses out of 3 different brushes every morning - and if we assume which one he wants to use and load it up with toothpaste, we have inevitably chosen the wrong one. He then will proceed to cry and scream until he gets his choice. Example #2, every night Calder wants to decide when he is going to come to the table for supper. Even when we give him a warning, "We are setting the timer and in 5 minutes it is time to come for supper" and he agrees to the arrangement, arguing still ensues. As soon as the buzzer goes off and we remind him to come to the table he will sputter, "Just one more race" or "I am just going to line these cars up" or "I don't want to eat supper." One more race always turns into more, and in the end we have to threaten him with a time-out to get him to belly up. And I would gander that at least 1/3 of the time he gets the time-out for not coming to the table.

The great news is that EVERYTHING we read about strong willed children says that if we channel his energy in a positive way he will be less likely to fall to peer pressure and more likely to stand up to for what he believes. Strong willed kids are the kind of kids who can really make a difference in the world.

The bad news is figuring out a way to channel his energy. We are up for this challenge, though. We have really felt like we have spent every moment in the last couple of weeks threatening time-outs and counting to 3. Our house has felt like a bit of a war zone. For the most part, it has just been Calder at war with us, but on occasion, I have been known to get dragged on the battlefield as well.

We have been reading a great book, Setting Limits with your Strong-Willed Child by Robert J. MacKenzie.

MacKenzie has a number of great tips, but for us the main theme being driven home is that strong willed kids learn from experience. Strong willed children will not listen to reason. They need to open the door and feel the cold before they will put their coat on. They need to have dozens of time-outs for the same behavior before they will know how to act. Strong-willed children need structure and they need to know their parents mean business when they give him instruction.

So for example with Calder, we can't count to 2, give a warning, start counting again and then follow that with a bit of negotiating. Calder needs to hear, "It is time for supper, if you don't put your cars down right now and come to the table, they will go in timeout." If we start to count to three, we need to count to three with absolutely no pauses, waiting for him to react.  If Calder doesn't come to the table, we need to put his cars in timeout.

This sounds completely logically, but in reality it means multiple timeouts an evening. Tonight in 2 hours he had 4 and that was a good night. Last night it was 7 followed by a major meltdown which resulted in him being put to bed early.  Requiring that Calder cooperate and not giving any second chances can get VERY exhausting. But we are doing it, because eventually, when we say, "It's supper time. Come to the table or the cars have to go in timeout." Calder will know we mean business and just come to the table.

If Calder can get 7 time-outs on a Wednesday night, I wonder how many he can get at home all day on a Saturday?  Here's hoping some of the "Mom and Dad mean business" message has started to sink in!

Have a great weekend!


  1. I think a lot of people can relate to this post and I love that you are taking a researched and educated approach! Thanks for sharing!

  2. LOVE your approach:) I have not had a particularly 'strong willed child' but my sister does and I agree with what you are saying 100%. IN fact, I think I may buy this book for her for Christmas! What you are doing right now may seem exhausting, but in the long run you are saving yourself and Calder plenty of tears and frustration. GOOD JOB MAMA!

  3. You and Hugh are both awesome parents! If it helps at all, I find with some of the strong willed children I work with that choices are really important and give them some sense of control. They don't have to be big choices. "It's supper time. Do you want to line your cars up or put them in this box?" - kind of thing. I'm no expert BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION (just ask my kids), but if it helps, great.

  4. You are incredible. I'm coming to you with my parenting questions in the future. I think our kid(s?) are hooped... there's no chance they won't be strong willed.

    Thank you too, for what you are given to Calder. Truly- what an amazing gift.

  5. Starting to sound familiar at my house :(

    Lisa w

  6. This is totally Chase, but I need to become stronger! It is exhausting fighting and counting and taking away things but you are right, hopefully in the end it will sink in and become easier! You've motivated me to not give in!

  7. Thanks to ALL of you for your ideas and support. Having our strong willed little man is challenging, but it definitely helps to have the support and hear advice from such a group of great women!

    p.s. The weekend had a rough start, but I am SO pleased to announce that we had a GREAT Sunday with Calder and and even better Monday morning. Our boy listened and cooperated! Yeahhhh!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


My Happiness Project