How do you deal with a head-strong child who won't cooperate?

United States
July 21, 2008 2:41pm CST
My daughter used to love helping me clean up around the house. Of course she was only two years old at the time and was Mommy's little helper. Now she balks at the slightest suggestion that she do anything! So I have to be really clever at getting her help, so it doesn't sound like an order. And she is starting to throw fits over tiny things, too. For instance, when she brushes her teeth, she hands me the brush and expects me to put it up, when she could so easily do the job herself. It's right there, just put the brush in the holder! The other day we had a Mexican stand-off where she stood there for ten minutes with the brush in her hand pouting and crying cause I wouldn't put up the brush. I've asked myself a hundred times why I didn't simply put up the stupid toothbrush. But then again, why didn't she? Every little thing is turning into a power struggle with her. And the only way for me to win is to make her think that it's her idea to do something. Or else, do the tasks myself. If I ask her to pick something up that she has thrown down she pouts and wants me to do it. If it's meal time, she demands to eat her own food and not what the family is having for dinner. And when I serve her a special meal (her favorites), she suddenly finds that she doesn't want that anymore, but would prefer something else! There are other instances, but those are just a few. Not the worst case examples, to be sure! I know this is just a phase where she is trying to learn her boundaries and assert independence. But please tell me that it'll get easier! How do you deal with your head-strong child? Are there any gentle solutions for dealing with this type of behavior?
5 people like this
13 responses
@1grnthmb (2063)
• United States
21 Jul 08
Our oldest daughter was always helping where ever she could until she turned thirteen. Then it was a fight to get her to do anything. Now, The age that you daughter is at is the age when they are testing you to see what she can get away with. Be firm but patients and she just might go back to being your helper. Also we never gave in to make anything special for them if they did not want what the family was eating they just went with out. The eventually would eat. We also had the rule that they had to take at least one bight of every thing on there plate before they could say they were done. Now we have kids that will eat anything and love to eat. Unlike most kids that are picky eaters.
3 people like this
• United States
22 Jul 08
I should really take your advice on the food issue. Cause I have tolerated her picky eating for several years now. And perhaps I created the problem by doing so. She used to eat lots of everything from tacos and mac with cheese to hamburgers and breads and veggies and fruits. Now she sets the standard on what she will and will not be served! And she is super picky over food. She knows that she can hold out for an hour or two and her Daddy will offer her a cookie! Or, I'll make a special dinner for her. We are spoiling her. I know it. And that is not how I want things. The child needs more fruits and veggies for sure. She should not be the one setting the rules at dinnertime. It's not good for her to do so! Thanks for your advice.
1 person likes this
@Sillychick (3282)
• United States
21 Jul 08
Try offering choices instead of commands whenever possible. Let her choose what's for dinner- out of 2 options of your choice. Then tell her it was her choice, this is what is for dinner. If she doesn't eat, put it away and when she is hungry later offer only what was served at dinner. At clean up time, offer to help, and give her choices, ask her if she wants to pick up the books or the blocks? Or the red blocks or the yellow blocks? And you do the others. Or whatever toys she has out. Make sure everything has a place and she knows where things go and that she is able to do it independently. If there is a toy that she throws and refuses to pick up, give her a set amount of time, either count to 3 or use an egg timer or a 1 or 3 minute hour glass. If she doesn't pick it up, you do it and the toy is taken away for the rest of the morning or afternoon. She can have another chance in the afternoon or the next day. Try to avoid power struggles whenever possible and instead offer reasonable choices or swift consequences. Spend more time praising her ability to make choices. Remind her that it was her choice and she needs to stick with it. This phase will pass quickly if you avoid power struggles and let her assert her independence when appropriate. Hang in there.
2 people like this
• United States
22 Jul 08
Thanks for all those wonderful suggestions! I will try them.
1 person likes this
@eihdra (3116)
• Philippines
22 Jul 08
hi BQ...I am going through the same ordeal, everyday.. So sad, that when they are still little they are so eager to help and learn what we do.. but, I guess, growing up means they too have other things to be busy about aside from helping.. they are all of a sudden wanting to be different from what they are before, trying to be independent, but when teaching them how to be really independent, they retaliate. Since my kid is already nine, I impose things. If he can do it, then why the heck not do it. If he doesnt like to put away his things, i won't clean it up for him. But I do tell him that if he doesnt clean or put away all his things, he can find them in the trash can the next day. It always happens, EVERYDAY. And every single day too, i tell him the same thing. Sometimes, there might be a point where we have spoiled them too much.. Did everything for them because they are our baby.. They thought that they could easily get away with it. Sometimes, we just do it for the sake of not having another irrational arguments. But, i have observed that our kids can use us too. If they feel lazy to do things, MOMMY is always there to pick everything that they have left off. MOMMY will take care of all my things. MOMMY is always there to help me.. They have become head strong because they actually know how to make us follow and obey with their whims and fits.. It has to be stopped, starting from a very young age. Or, they will still do this to us even in their adult lives...
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Jul 08
Do you use lists for your older son? My daughter doesn't read yet, but when she is older, I was thinking of using a chore chart listing out her duties around the house. Wonder if that could work for him. Maybe post a chart on the refrigerator or his bedroom door and each chore earns him one single privilege. As you say, kids get so used to Mommy doing everything. Mine has! I am slowing helping her establish her own independence. One day she will need many life skills to live a good life! Best of luck with your sons.
@eihdra (3116)
• Philippines
29 Jul 08
Maybe it's about time to do those charts...I wanted him to learn and remember his "job"..But since,he's so forgetful and sometimes he really doesn't mean to, because it's one of his disabilities due to hydrocephalus, he forgets.. i'll try that and the reward system too..Hope things around here will change... Thanks for the tip again, BQ..
@katsmeow1213 (28589)
• United States
21 Jul 08
I guess I'm lucky that mine aren't head strong. I'm not the type to stand for that sort of behavior. At mealtimes it's "Eat what I serve, or go hungry". With the toothbrush situation, I would have left the room... not involved myself in her power struggle. She is testing her limits, and you are the boss. You need to put your foot down, and not engage in it. The more you give in to her, the more she'll push to get more and more, as you're already noticing.
1 person likes this
• United States
22 Jul 08
Yes, she is certainly doing that! I guess she figured since the schedule changed somewhat lately she has new rules and of course, she does not! Oh, well! I will have to pick my battles as I'm always saying. But you're right. I'm the Mom!
• Philippines
22 Jul 08
I also have a two-year old daughter and she seemed like that too. I observed that when I show impatience, she does the same and throws anything she can get her hands just so she can express her anger.When I'm gentle towards her even if she's throwing tantrums, she tends to be loving and gentle too. So it really depends on how I would like to control her.It is good to be really understanding to her and show her the right thing to do because they tend to imitate what she sees in me.
• United States
22 Jul 08
I will keep that in mind. She does respond well to a gentle tone and gentle manner! Thank you for your tips and suggestions!
• United States
22 Jul 08
When you are calm, you are in contorl. Sit down and calmly tell her what changes you want to make and what you expect and what will be her consequences and what the rewards will be. Make a chart! Put it on the fridge. List rewards and penalties. Bad behavior takes away things she likes to do. Good behavior can earn rewards like having a friend over or going to the park.
@GreenMoo (11842)
28 Jul 08
All I can do is offer sympathy! I reckon every Mum in the world recognises that phase, and it's so very frustrating. You know the child is just trying to become a person in their own right, but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I'm sorry, I don't know how old your daughter is now. All I can suggest to do is leave her to it. If she won't put her toothbrush away, walk away. If she won't eat her dinner, allow her leave it. I don't know if that will help in your daughter's situation or just make for awful tantrums, but it's the only way I got through to my son sometimes! Best of luck!
@cyberfluf (5005)
• Netherlands
23 Jul 08
So many wonderfull advice has been given that I hardly feel like I can add anything more. I agree that losing toys will help children realise that there are certain things going to happen when they do not cooperate. Letting her earn stickers or something like that for finishing a chore is also a good thing because you will be rewarding positive behaviour rather then discipling the bad behaviour. Sometimes disciplining is neccesairy so that's not a bad thing. Good luck and keep us updated!
@bamakelly (5194)
• United States
23 Jul 08
I wish I had all the answers to your questions. However being a mother we are both in the same boat. I just have one who is four. Yes, it can be overbearing sometimes and you just have to accept that they want to become independent. That is a good sign that your daughter asserts independence. So does my son. It will be good in the long run in their future. I sometimes let my son help me with things and it can get things done and avoid arguments. Yes, it probably is a phase and there will be more phases to come. Never a dull moment!
@chertsy (3817)
• United States
23 Jul 08
I have two daughters 12 and 6, My oldest is giving me the pre-teen attitude that I have to dig deep for patience, or you will see me on the 6 o'clock news with either being sent to a funny farm, or hanging her upside down by her ankles. Now with my 6 year old, she's very needy. She wants me to do everything with her. I have learned with the food, at the age of 3- 9 they are picky eaters. I won't force my kids to eat something that they don't like, my grandmother did that to me and I hated her for it, plus I won't touch that food to save my life. Someone brought up a good point, let her pick out of two choices of food that you have chosen for her. For example, chicken or beef, corn or carrots, noodles or rice. Maybe have her help with dinner, she will want to eat, what she made. When it comes to cleaning her room, only time my youngest will do it, is when my husband jumps her butt about it. He tells her she can't leave her room until it's cleaned, and that he will be checking it in a time limit. Plus it also works if you go in her room with one of those huge black trash bags. Pick up a toy that's laying around. Ask her if she wants to keep it, hopefully she will say yes,. Then tell her to put it up, or it's going in the trash. Hopefully she will put it up. If she doesn't, I have to admit, I'm at loss on how to help with this. When she's brushing her teeth, right before she gets done, walk away, so your not there to put it up. Or get a reward calendar, get a regular calendar and if she listens, follows rules, ate her meals, etc, she gets a sticker on that day, once she goes a full week, she can get a small toy. Depending on the age, you can get a small toy at walmart, or those $1.00 bins at Target. Then after a month of this, she can get something bigger. I hope what I have written helps.
@jillbeth (2711)
• United States
22 Jul 08
I just wanted to put my two cents in about the food issue, even though you've already given best response. I became the stepmother of three many years ago and they tried to convince me they didn't like certain foods. So I told them they had two options: to eat what I had fixed, or they could have a peanut butter sandwich. I never fought with them over food, but let them decide. It turned out that they almost never chose the peanut butter but ate what was served instead. They weren't as picky as they thought they were after all! Ha ha. And later, as they got older, their mother told me that she got tired of hearing what a good cook I was whenever she tried to feed them.
• United States
22 Jul 08
Kids can be funny in this way for I went through it with my son as well. He liked to help me up until he was about 4 then after that everything was a challenge to get him to do anything. I Just tried to make a game out of things I would make up a chart that for every time he did something on his own he got to put a star on the chart. By the end of the week depending on how well he did he useally got a dollar or two that he got to put into his piggy bank on his dresser. But believe me he was hestitant about certains things for my son is smart he knew I was getting him to do something but some times my little game plan worked other times it didn't. How old is your daughter now? It's probably just a fase she is going through and will come out of it. My son is 9 now soon to be 10 next month so he dosn't give that much of a problem any more when asked to do something. I do wish you the best of luck when with your daughter and may she want to be like she was befor mommies little helper.
• United States
22 Jul 08
You might not want to hear this, but I have to say it. Who is in control here? Surely you do not think it is "ok" for your daughter to run you and your house hold? Children are more secure and happy when YOU --the parent-- are in control. Letting them be in charge really only makes them feel out of control and insecure. Therefore, they will act out even more. I am not sure how old your daughter is, but if she is past 2 this is not acceptable behavior, in my opinion. I must state that I feel that it is your responsibility to teach her the right way to behave. If you do not, do you think that other adults and children will like being around her? It is your responsibility to make sure that others don't dispise seeing her coming! I am not trying to be mean or insensitive. I am a mother too and I have raised 3 kids and a step son who came to me with many emotional problems. Being a Mom is not easy. You have to be a Mother, not a friend. Do what is best for your childs developement as a person. Not what is easy or makes you her friend. You owe her that. If your daughter does not respect you now. What will you do with her when she becomes a teenager? Have a sit down and tell her the changes that are going to take place and what you expect. Stick by what you say. Do not bargin with her. Be in control. In the long run she will trust you and respect you more because you stand by your word.
@Humbug25 (12552)
21 Jul 08
Hi there beautyqueen26 I will tell you, things do get easier because they will if you make it happen and put in the work now. You musn't give in and you must stand your ground, you are the mother and you lay down the rules. You must give her consequences for her actions, time out for example and you must be consistant, which is the hardest part. I think girls are a lot more headstrong than boys but that's not to say that boys can't give you a run for your money! I have 3 boys myself aged 3, 5 and 7. My eldest was the most difficult to deal with as he has an amazing ammount of energy. As soon as he was of an age that he could understand consequences he started to calm down a bit. You have to find a consequence that works though. For my eldest it is putting a cross (which is bad) on his behaviour chart, my 5 year old I tell him that I will put him on a child's leash the next time we are out and the youngest I simply put in time out. What ever punishment you threaten your child with you must be prepared to follow through. Hang on in there and don't give into her however hard it may seem! I don't mean to sound like I am lecturing you, just trying to give some advise!Good luck and I hope I have been of some help.