Parenting Plan for a Stubborn Child

Stubborn Child
Stubborn Child

I’m still on the fence as to whether being stubborn has a positive side to it. I think I’m stubborn – at least I’ve been told as much and my youngest is a doozy. She’ll argue you down over whether Santa wears a red suit. No, he doesn’t !!!  According to her, there are definitely not sixty minutes in one hour, her teacher absolutely has a pet alligator, and leprechauns made a mess in her classroom, they most surely did. I look at my husband in amazement and question, ‘Do I do that’? ‘I don’t do that, do I’? (I won’t comment on his reply.)

My neighbor Cheryl has a stubborn streak, often cracking me up. Her daughter, Lacy, once decided not to do the dishes, and when asked why, Lacy honestly replied, ‘I didn’t feel like it’. Cheryl gave a wide eyed, Hhmm…., but didn’t punish Lacy. The next day after school, I happened to be in the office and noticed Lacy waiting on a chair. Apparently, Cheryl hadn’t picked her up in carpool as she normally did. We live in a great neighborhood so I knew Lacy would be safe at school, but it was very uncharacteristic of Cheryl. So I frantically texted her, “Are you okay? Do you need me to take Lacy home?”  She texted back, “Oh no.  I’m just teaching her a lesson.”  Twenty minutes later, Cheryl strolled into the office. When Lacy asked, “Why didn’t you pick me up on time? I’ve been waiting in the office forever!”  Cheryl casually shrugged and said, “Well, I didn’t feel like it.” I caught Cheryl later and laughed.  Oh my gosh, you stinker! What a great lesson! She replied, “Oh, not really. I’m just stubborn!” 

Stubborn personalities can end up being very independent and creative, so you don’t want to squash it completely. Many times it is simply a matter of pointing out the behavior to the kid to teach them better communication: 

  • When I ask you nicely to put your hair up for school and you refuse and start crying, that is being stubborn. We can discuss why you don’t want your hair up, but stomping your foot or crying is not going to make me want to hear your reasons. 
  • Once you figure out her concerns, if they are legitimate, guide her on what to say instead. For example, “Mom, those hair bands hurt my head.”
  • If it’s a silly, I-just-want-it-that-way-because-I-want-it reason, then she probably needs some firmer limits. For some reason she’s getting the idea that life revolves around her and her wants. (Hhmmm. . . wonder where she got that idea?)     
  • To set those limits, offer her a choice of two alternatives. Example: The kid is walking out the door to the park, but needs her rat-nest hair brushed. She resists and starts crying. You say, “Go get your brush so I can help you brush your hair.”  She gives you a stubborn, ‘Uummnh’ with a frowny face. So you say, “You can get the brush now so I can help you, or you can stay home from the park while we brush your hair. Your choice.”  (Word of warning: make sure you offer two choices you can live with or be darn sure you know which one she’ll pick.)