strong willed

Raising a Strong-Willed Daughter

My wife and I knew we had a contest on our hands the day our then three-year-old strong-willed daughter pitched a full throttle fit in the middle of the buffet line at Morrison’s Cafeteria. The exhibition lasted a full five minutes and it was, “welcome to the next 15 years of your life – game on.”

Raising a strong-willed daughter over the next decade and a half ranged from, “Well I’ll just go to school NAKED then!” disputes over appropriate clothing, to going to sleep in the middle of a hardwood floor rather than go to bed when instructed, to climbing out of her bedroom window to run away from home, to joining the Army.

Obviously, no one wants to take the bright spark out of a growing child. However, “You’ve gotta love a girl with spirit” aside, raising a strong-willed daughter is certainly no walk in the park. Here are eight points to follow when it comes to raising a strong-willed daughter:

1. Don’t pile on the rules:

Drawing lines in the sand simply doesn’t work. Instead, reinforce positive, cooperative behavior. Fewer rules, consistently applied is the guide here.

2. Always value her opinion:

Teach your daughter that you value her contribution to the conversation. Involve her in the decision-making process. Help her find ownership of her own guidelines. Build up, and don’t tear down.

3. Building off of point #2, give her responsibility and choices early and often:

Training in making choices needs to start early and continue indefinitely. We want our daughters to have well-formulated opinions and preferences, so giving them the tools to do so with grace and thoughtfulness is a win-win.

4. Remain calm and don’t raise your voice:

Butting heads is never effective. Calmly remind your daughter that, while you love and respect her, it’s in her best interests to be cooperative. This is not a veiled threat so much as it is a nod to reality. Consistent and reasonable consequences help children make better choices – especially those strong-willed daughters.

5. Treat her strong-willed mother with kindness and respect:

Cultivate a family culture that values respect and demonstrates kindness. [Tweet This]

6. Use natural consequences:

When consequences are required, use (as much as possible) consequences that are directly a result of her unwillingness to compromise.

7. Try offering more than one choice:

Give your daughter options to choose from. Just make sure that all the choices are acceptable to you. This encourages your daughter both to make choices and to understand that you value her input.

8. Never try to break her will:

This is a victory that will soon turn to tragic defeat. Breaking a child’s will is degrading and teaches them that they are less valuable, and trains them to accept manipulation and even abuse. Never do this.

My strong-willed daughter now has a strong-willed daughter of her own, so there’s always that to look forward to!

Sound Off

What is the biggest challenge of raising a strong-willed daughter?

Derek Maul

Derek Maul is the author of five books, a nationally recognized men’s resource, a committed encourager, and a pilgrim in progress. He divides his time between writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged life.

  • Good stuff, Derek. This is really helpful and timely for me (dad of a 16-yr-old strong-willed daughter). It is showing me some areas where I have got it right, and unfortunately some areas where I have got it wrong. Thanks!

  • Duncan

    I have 2 girls, a 17 year old and a 3 year old. I am sad to say I learned so much from my 17 year old who is naturally strong willed. The type that would sit in the rain for hours before she would compromise. I see the same strong spirit in her little sister, but several things are different in me and the scars of fatherhood can and will allow my heart to be shaped as my little one grows in to an amazing young lady. I love today’s read. Agree 100%

  • Derek Maul

    Thanks for sharing, Duncan. And – Jackie – this fatherhood thing is always one steep learning curve! I am grateful for grace and for the fruits of patience.

  • Kenric

    Nice article. I am curious to know what the difference between strong-willed and undisciplined or stubborn is? Similar descriptions that come to mind are real, determined, disobedient, non-compliant, or difficult. Also, is it me, or does it seem we most often use “strong-willed” to describe someone when we are talking about children (of any age) and, most commonly, females (of any age) who exhibit a strong “I don’t want/have to and you can’t make me” attitude?

    • Single Dad

      I agree Kendric, I think I married one of these “strong-willed” children turned adult. It wasn’t much fun.

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