7 Tips for Raising Stubborn Children

Stubborn or strong-willed children are often a challenge for their parents. However, there are a few keys to raising them while avoiding conflicts and developing their full potential. We'll tell you about them here.
7 Tips for Raising Stubborn Children
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 08 August, 2022

Parents who have more than one child can attest that each child’s character is different. You may have even compared your little one to other children his age and wondered why he or she is not as calm, obedient, or adaptable. Having a child with a difficult temperament is a challenge, but it can also be a wonderful experience if we know how to handle it. Therefore, we offer you some keys to raising stubborn children.

First of all, it’s important to highlight that having a strong character is not a defect. It’s not something we should look down on. In terms of parenting, it’s easier to raise a child with an easy temperament, but these little ones that we consider stubborn are, in reality, potential leaders and children with clear ideas who are eager to explore and dominate the world. Why would we want to take these qualities away from them?

By understanding their virtues and knowing how to adapt to their needs, we can accompany them so that they can develop their full potential. And, of course, along the way they will teach us valuable lessons that will transform us as parents and as people. Here are some useful tips if you’re ready to take on this adventure.

Stubborn children: Children with difficult temperaments

a stubborn child
Stubborn children can be easily frustrated and need to understand why they need to do something.

If you feel that your child is stubborn or has a bad temper, he or she may actually be a child with a difficult temperament. This is one of three types of child temperament postulated by Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess after extensive and thorough research. It’s a trait that’s present in approximately 10% of children and shows identifiable characteristics from the first months:

  • They tend to experience negative emotions frequently. As a result, they tend to cry often and become irritable easily.
  • It’s difficult for them to establish and follow sleeping, eating, or other routines. They’re often quite unpredictable.
  • In addition, it’s also difficult for them to adapt to changes, novelties, and strangers.
  • They don’t tolerate frustration well. Everything has to be the way they want it and when they want it. They may respond with anger when they’re forced to do something.
  • They need constant attention and stimulation. They can get bored easily, but they also give their all when the task motivates them.

It’s important to remember that these are not necessarily aggressive, ill-mannered children or those with behavioral problems. They just have a character that can challenge parents who seek only obedience. However, by raising from another perspective, great achievements can be obtained.

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How to raise stubborn or strong-willed children

If your child falls into this category, here are some parenting guidelines that may be useful to you:

Let them choose

As you may have already seen, for stubborn children, there’s nothing worse than having to submit to the will of others. They have their own ideas and want to follow them. So, rather than giving orders, it can be more effective to offer a range of controlled options for the child to choose from.

Whether it’s clothing, food, or leisure activities, try presenting the child with a range of alternatives and let him or her choose. This will make the child feel heard and involved and will avoid the conflicts that arise when orders are given in a frontal and unilateral way.

Offer explanations and healthy dialogue

Children with a strong character or a difficult temperament usually respond very well to dialogue. Whether it’s a matter of complying with a rule, performing a new task, or dealing with a situation that is unpleasant for him, take the time to explain why. Tell the child why something has to be done in a certain way, why he or she has to leave the park, why he or she has to spend the night with his or her grandparents, etc.

Even if the child seems too young to understand, this conversation will make him or her more willing to accept the situation. Again, with this explanation, the child will feel that he or she is taken into account and that his or her parents aren’t just trying to impose themselves.

stubborn children
Empathy is often the best way to raise difficult or stubborn children.

Empathize and validate their emotions

These little ones often experience frequent negative emotions. For parents, this is often a nuisance and an annoyance on a day-to-day basis. Why does the child have to throw a tantrum over something as simple as having to go to the bathroom or get up on time? This can lead us to lose our temper and try to move them forcefully; instead, it’s much more productive to take a moment to empathize with them.

For example, we can say, “I understand that you’re having a lot of fun playing and don’t feel like going for a bath. I, too, find it hard to give up activities that are fun for me. However, if you go to the bathtub now, we’ll have a little time to read a story later.”

Cooperate with your child

Although we take it for granted that children must obey their parents, none of us likes to be ordered around. For this these children in particular, this rejection of authority may be more pronounced. Therefore, you can try employing a cooperative attitude. Saying and doing things like “let’s pick up the toys,” or “let’s set the table together” are phrases and attitudes that usually give better results than a simple: “Do this now because I say so.”

Control and regulate your own negative reactivity

This is a key point that we must not lose sight of. Raising a stubborn child is challenging and can awaken our own anger and despair. We can lose our temper, become anxious, yell or threaten too often, but this only increases the child’s discomfort and escalates conflicts.

It’s essential that parents know how to apply self-control and regulate their own emotions, maintain an appropriate tone of voice, and be patient. Only in this way will the child be able to calm down and learn from your example.

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Take a genuine interest in the child

Stubborn or strong-willed children have a lot to say and want to be heard. For them, it’s a real gift to have their parents take an interest in their opinions, their desires, and their likes and dislikes. It’s crucial for their parents to listen to them and give them a space to express themselves rather than simply run their lives. So, take a genuine interest in your child, their hobbies, and their passions. Spend time with them, encourage their initiatives, and share their tastes.

This will help forge a healthy and solid relationship of mutual trust, love, and respect. In fact, it will also make it much easier to get the child’s cooperation.

Avoid comparing your child to other children

Finally, avoid comparing your child with other children. It’s true that maybe their siblings, cousins, or peers have an easier temperament and are more adaptable or less demanding. However, this doesn’t make your child worse than them. No one likes to be compared and belittled, especially by the people they love the most in the world.

Therefore, begin to value your child’s virtues and what makes him or her unique. You can even bear in mind the benefits that bring that strong character, which are many. Appreciate his or her leadership, wit and witticism, and passionate emotions. Don’t try to change him or her. On the contrary, love your child just as she or he is.

Raising strong-willed children is a learning experience

If you have a stubborn or strong-willed child in your home, you can be sure that his or her upbringing will transform you. The child has come to break your paradigms and change your way of seeing the world. He or she will force you to be more flexible, more empathetic, and more patient. Your child will also encourage you to connect with your own emotions in order to manage them and to stop looking for control.

You’ll come to understand that parenthood is not about giving orders but about accompanying the growth of another human being in the way he or she needs. And although it will perhaps be more exhausting than expected, it will also be extremely rewarding. Enjoy the journey!


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Alto, E., Galián, M. D., & Huéscar, E. (2007). Relaciones entre estilos educativos, temperamento y ajuste social en la infancia: Una revisión. Anales de Psicología/Annals of Psychology23(1), 33-40.
  • Thomas, A., & Chess, S. (1985). Genesis and evolution of behavioral disorders: From infancy to early adult life. Annual Progress in Child Psychiatry & Child Development, 140–158.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.