How to Discipline a Hard-Headed Child

by Leslie Truex, Demand Media Google
    Manage the behavior of hard-headed children through consistent parenting.

    Manage the behavior of hard-headed children through consistent parenting.

    Parenting would be a whole lot easier if children came with a manual. Unfortunately, no one-size-fits all parenting method exists. Age, biology, parenting style and temperament all influence child behavior. Dr. Stanley Turecki, a psychiatrist and author of "The Difficult Child," reports that children are born with a temperament that will stay with them throughout their lives. Hard-headed children usually grow up to be strong-willed adults. These children are a challenge to parent, but fortunately there are techniques you can use to manage a hard-headed child.

    Step 1

    Play more. This may seem counter-intuitive, but hard-headed children can be difficult to like, and as a result, many interactions between child and parent are strained. This creates a cycle of negative interactions that is difficult to break. Child Trends reports that families and children generally have better relationships when the quality of interaction is high. Positive interactions will build your child's self-esteem and encourage cooperation, resulting in less power struggles. Playing with and giving 100 percent of your focus to your strong-willed child for 15 to 20 minutes a day is the easiest and most enjoyable way to have positive interactions with her.

    Step 2

    Set realistic expectations. You've probably heard or experienced that 2-year-olds and teenagers can be difficult, but did you know that every age involves developmental growth that can be challenging, even more so with a hard-headed child? A basic understanding of child development will ensure that you are disciplining for a behavior your child is developmentally ready to master.

    Step 3

    Avoid activities that trigger hard-headed behavior. You may have noticed that there are times or events that set your child off such as the hour right before dinner, switching from one activity to another without warning or difficulty managing feelings of frustration. You can anticipate and intervene during these times to lessen hard-headed behavior. Give your child notice when the routine will change, skills to cope with change and an acceptable outlet for expressing frustration, to help prevent problems in these areas.

    Step 4

    Keep your emotions in check. Your frustration and anger can add fuel to your child's negative behavior. When giving commands or discipline, keep your tone neutral and business-like.

    Step 5

    Make sure the time fits the crime, using discipline techniques that fit the behavior. Despite what many parents think, discipline isn't about punishment, although punishment may be involved. Discipline is about teaching. Children have an easier time learning appropriate behavior if the discipline makes sense. Getting spanked for riding the bike in the street isn't as effective as having the bike taken away for a period of time.

    Step 6

    Be consistent. The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology reports a link between inconsistency and amount of family conflict. This is especially true for hard-headed children who seem to thrive on angst. When you set a boundary, enforce it every time. Hard-headed children usually do better with firm boundaries and routine.


    • Still need advice specific to your child's needs? Consider taking a parent education course to learn a variety of skills and techniques to help your child behave, as well as to get support.

    About the Author

    Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.

    Photo Credits

    • Hemera Technologies/ Images