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with locations in Durham & Chapel Hill.

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Strong Willed Preschoolers – How to Channel that Spirit!

Do you have a strong willed Preschooler?  Chances are she started out as a high spirited Toddler!  At times you want to pull your hair out with that determined (a.k.a.: “stubborn”) little being.  But don’t give up!  That strong-minded little person will grow into a confident adult one day as long as you channel that spirit for your benefit and your preschooler’s!  Here are four tips to get you through the early years and pave the path for a successful future.

power struggle


They LOVE Choices!

Independence and power plays are part of every toddler’s make-up but for a strong willed child those two traits can be even more challenging.  They want to be in control. All. The. Time!  So why not give them some authority?  (HINT: You don’t care which choice they make!).  Is it time to get dressed for the day?  They get to choose the blue or the green shirt.  Breakfast?  Tell your preschooler he can choose oatmeal or a bagel with cream cheese.  If it doesn’t matter to you which choice is made then let the decision be your child’s.  He will feel empowered by getting to choose and you will alleviate a power struggle.


Acknowledge Their Feelings

High spirited children generally have a big personality and with that personality comes big emotions.  When they are happy – you know it! When they are not happy – everyone knows it!  But before you reprimand that emotional outburst sometimes a simple acknowledgement of feelings will avoid a meltdown.  “I know you want to wear the pink dress and you’re sad you can’t.  You can choose the blue or green one for today and the pink one will be washed for tomorrow.”  You’ve validated her feelings and sometimes that can make a big difference to that big personality.


Be Obnoxious about Routines & Rules

A strong willed child does not do well with grey area.  Stick to routines and be consistent about rules.  That determined toddler will buck the system when given the opportunity so don’t risk it.  When there’s a hardline rule she will come to respect it.  She may not agree with it and even test it … but if you’re consistent in your follow through it will benefit you in the long run.  You’ll be surprised how the day comes when you’re expecting a push back she pouts and moves on.


A headstrong preschooler always wants to be in the know.  Communicate often and be specific.  Routines are important but sometimes plans change or circumstances are unavoidable.   However, don’t mistake this for having to defend yourself.  You acknowledged his feelings, made a decision, possibly even gave an alternative option – now move on.  Tell your preschooler that you know he wanted to wear the green shirt today but it’s really cold outside thus the long sleeved white one it will be.  He can wear the blue or green pants with it.  That is all the discussion needed.  Being too empathetic to the point of apologizing will cause you to lose some of your own authority with your child.


These four tips won’t necessarily avoid all future meltdowns but possibly they will ward off or minimize a few challenging moments.  It doesn’t always seem so in the moment but those high spirited toddlers will grow into very self-assured young men and women and have the potential to go far in life… as long as you don’t squash them first!

AB 2/15/16


Learn More About our 5-Star Preschool

Children’s Campus enriches the minds of children aged 6 weeks through Pre-K. Call us at 919-806-1900 to schedule your tour of our child care centers.