Dealing With Headstrong Kids


He doesn’t want to listen. He doesn’t want to budge. He always wants to be in charge. He has a witty reply for everything you say, and what should be simple everyday routines easily become a battle of wills. Filipinos have a term for such strong-willed or headstrong kids, “matigas ang ulo.” Being headstrong can be a good thing. It means that your child is tough, determined, and can stand up for himself. He may just be a leader in the making as well. Of course, the downside here is that he’s not wont to follow orders, and may be just downright bossy.

How can you manage your child’s willfulness without pulling out your hair in frustration? Here are some ideas:

DON’T make him comply, ask him to cooperate. Sometimes it’s about taking the proper position. Instead of making your child follow instructions, ask for his cooperation in accomplishing a task. When a strong-willed child feels that he is part of the process, he is more likely to cooperate. If the kitchen needs to be cleaned, for example, ask him how he’d like to pitch in. This way, he doesn’t feel that he’s being bossed around, and he gets to choose how he can help.

DO take the time to listen. Parenting is not always about talking; oftentimes, it’s all about listening. A headstrong child knows exactly what she wants. When you asked her to wear her sweater because it’s cold where you’re going and she refused, it could be because she doesn’t like the sweater you chose, and not because she doesn’t want to wear a sweater. Being mindful about our child’s likes and dislikes and favorites and preferences can save us a world of tantrums.

DON’T turn it into a fight. Locking horns with a bullheaded child will only make matters worse. When you’ve got an angry child in your hands, the worse thing that you can do is get angry right alongside him. This will not solve your predicament, and would only result in both of you blowing off steam. When you’ve got an angry child in your hands, give him time to cool down. Be patient. Only when he’s calm and collected should you begin the conversation.

DO create a positive home environment. When your home is a happy one, a place where mutual respect and understanding reigns supreme, it would be hard for a strong-willed child to think that his voice is not being heard or his preferences being stepped on. If you and your spouse set the tone for cooperation in your home, your child might just get sold on its many benefits.

DO make rules and routines consistent. The strong-willed child would likely test your house rules and routines. While routines can be flexible—if your child wants to wash his face first before brushing his teeth then that’s okay—rules are rules. Your child may not like the rules, and start arguing or negotiating. Stick to your guns. The rules are there to keep him safe and sound, that’s what you should constantly and consistently communicate to him. He would likely cajole in frustration, but the necessity and benefits of following rules is a lesson he needs to learn. And if it’s in the presence of supportive, caring parents, then he’d soon move on.


DO get to know your child better. Find out what motivates your child. What inspires him? What brings him joy? Strong-willed kids know what they want so it’s all the more important that their parents really take the time to get to know them.

DON’T be bullheaded yourself. Last but not least, you can’t expect your child to manage his bullheaded tendencies when you let it get the better of it yourself. Parents are their kids’ best teachers, and a strong-willed child who sees the same bullheadedness on his parent would think he’s doing just fine. Be patient, always.