Parenting the Strong Willed Child

Friends and family ask me all the time what they can do to improve their child’s behavior.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re not asking me because my children are perfectly well behaved!  They ask me because they hope that as a child psychologist and mom of  four I might have some tricks up my sleeve that will help them.  And FAST!

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that improving a child’s behavior is not something that can be done overnight.  It takes time and effort.  Just like if you said you needed to lose some weight.  You’d have to work hard to achieve your weight and fitness goals.  Your diet would have to change, you’d start exercising, you would monitor your progress at regular intervals.  These are the same types of things you have to do to change your child’s behavior.

So, what’s my answer when people ask me how to improve their child’s behavior?  First, buy the book Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for Parents of Two- to Six-Year-Olds, Third Editionby Rex Forehand, Ph.D. and Nicholas Long, Ph.D.  As a parent, this is my go to book.  I have read it many times and implemented its strategies with all of my children at some level or another.  You don’t even have to have a child with behavior problems!  Every parent would benefit from reading this book and following its parenting tips.  Sort of like the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book when you’re pregnant, this is the book that tells you what to expect and what to do when you want to improve your child’s behavior (and who doesn’t want to do that!).

Parenting the Strong Willed Child:  The Clinically Proven Five Week Program for Parents of Two to Six Year Olds includes how to guides, homework, and daily monitoring guides for how to successfully attend to, reward, and ignore your child.  It also teaches how to give instructions effectively and use time-out with success. In addition to these basics, it integrates tips on improving your communication skills, enhancing your child’s self esteem, and teaching your child social skills.  And my favorite, the chapter on helping parents develop more patience!

If you’re thinking that your child has problems that go beyond rewarding, ignoring, and time out, don’t worry!  At the end of the book there is a section devoted to specific problem behaviors, like tantrums, aggression, lying, and sibling rivalry.  There are also specific instructions on managing problems with bedtime and sleeping, mealtimes, getting dressed, in the car, and at school.

If you’re committed to improving your parenting and your child’s behavior, then this book is a must read.  It may not provide an overnight fix, but in five weeks you will surely see a dramatic improvement!  Remember, just like achieving weight loss or fitness goals, changing your child’s behavior takes time.  But your effort will pay off in the end, so stick with it and let me know how it works for you!


  1. says

    found your blog through #blogboost.
    My son is strong-willed, oh, yes. Do you think the book would work for a 7-year old, too? Or do you have another resourse for older kids?

    • Polly says

      This book works well for seven year olds, too. You may have to change a few things (like age appropriate rewards), but overall you should not have a problem using it with your son. Let me know how it goes!

  2. says

    Maybe I should give those kinds of books at baby showers! My SIL is having twins (first children) in a few months. She is going to need it probably.

    Being strong willed does have it’s good points though. If you teach your strong willed child correct values, then they are more apt as teenagers to stick too them and not be swayed by their peers.

    • Polly says

      I agree! Strong willed children are wonderfully independent and with the right values often turn into very successful adults and leaders! I give this book out to all my family and friends. It’s a favorite of mine and a handy reference throughout childhood. Thanks for visiting.


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